ABC of Vegetables - Part 3
30th Jun 1999
This is the third in my series on the ABC of vegetables showing which varieties are best for both kitchen and for exhibition. It also gives sowing dates that I would use here in Anglesey as well as points values for each vegetable as laid down in both the RHS Horticultural Show Handbook and the new NVS judges guide.
O - Courgettes - The courgette in essence is nothing more than an immature marrow and should be eaten and exhibited when approaching six inches in length. Stage side by side with the flower end facing the judge. An excellent green variety and easy to grow is " Defender" with the lovely yellow skinned "Golden Zucchini" making a strikingly beautiful dish. Although a very low pointed vegetable, it is often incorporated into local show schedules. For mid August Shows, sow late April for planting out towards the end of May to early June when there is no risk of frost. Covering the plants over with a cloche helps to get them away to a good start. RHS points - Condition 4, Colour 4, Uniformity 2. Total 10 points. NVS points - Condition 4, Uniformity 2, Shape 2, Size 2. Total 10 points.
P - Cucumbers - The most popular type in show schedules are those grown in a greenhouse although there are some schedules with a specific class for the ridge or outdoor type. The best fruits are grown in really humid conditions when the fruits mature quickly and are capable of being exhibited with the flower still attached. There are some excellent all female varieties available now with "Carmen"," Cumlaude" and "Aramon" being regularly awarded the red cards at the highest level. Sow mid May in a cold greenhouse to have young fruits by mid August. RHS points - Condition 5, Size and Shape 5, Colour 4, Uniformity 4. Total 18 points. NVS points - Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 3, Colour 3. Total 18 points.
Q - Fennel, Florence - A vegetable that is again getting more popular as the breeders are continuing to improve the susceptibility to bolt. Some of the newer F1 hybrid varieties are really plump and juicy and well worth growing for the" Any Other Vegetable" class if not in your regular show schedule. A top variety to grow is" Rudy F1" which can easily being grown to maturity in a 7 inch pot as I do with my fennel for Chelsea. Sow mid April outdoors or early May if grown under cover. RHS points - Condition and Solidity 5, Size and Shape 4, Colour 3, Uniformity 3. Total 15 points. NVS points - Condition 5, Uniformity 3, Shape 2, Size 2, Colour 3. Total 15 points.
R - Kohl Rabi - A vegetable that grows and matures quickly given good conditions with most varieties ready to eat within 10 weeks from sowing the seed. Makes a wonderfully colourful dish. Do make sure when handling that you hold only the leaf stalks as the beautiful bloom, particularly on the purplish variety should remain intact. "Robleau" is a lovely purple skinned hybrid whilst "Lanro" is a pale green FI hybrid, both very easy to grow and delicious served hot or grated into salads. RHS points - Condition 5, Size 3, Shape 2, Uniformity 2. Total 12 points. NVS points - Condition 5, Uniformity 3, Shape 2, Size 2, Total 12 points.
S - Leeks (Blanch) - A must if you intend to stage a collection of vegetables as the leeks, together with a well blanched Celery, makes a wonderful backboard to any collection. Most exhibition leeks are grown from bulbils or pips which develop on the previous years leek seed head. These are removed from mid November and pricked out into trays like young seedlings. There are however some new hybrids coming on the market that will soon be making a mark on the show bench. The best plants to grow are a good selection of the Ivor Mace Welsh seedling or the Peter Clark variety. These young rooted seedlings are available from early January and will be ready for exhibiting from mid August. RHS points - Condition 8, Solidity 4, Colour (blanch) 3, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 5, Colour 2. Total 20 points.
Pot Leeks - A totally different variety to the long blanch with the main criteria being that the length of barrel to the tight button must be no more than 6 inches. Again, for best results, is best grown from pips or grass which can be bought from well known top growers who advertise in the columns of Garden News. A straight barrelled variety is "Belsae Blue" whilst a good selection of the "Tommy Molyneaux" strain well grown can be unbeatable. Order your plants early in the year to make sure that you have good heavy specimens for mid August. RHS points - Condition 8, Solidity 4, Colour (blanch) 3, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 5, Colour 2. Total 20 points.
T - Lettuce - The most popular lettuce in most show schedules is the Butterhead variety although some schedules will have separate classes for the Cos type as well as the Crisphead varieties. Not the easiest to stage to perfection as they can easily go limp prior to judging, so lift the lettuce complete with a moist root ball and wrap the roots in a polythene bag. A good variety in the Butterhead class would be "Mirian", for the Cos, "Cosmic" makes good dark green heads and "Challenge" makes very large heads of the Crisphead types. For mid August shows sow a very short row during early June followed by another as soon as the first has germinated. These can then be transplanted nine inches apart. RHS points - Condition 5, Solidity and Texture 4, Colour 3, Uniformity 3. Total 15 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 3, Solidity (crisp) 3, Colour 3. Total 15 points.
This article will be completed next week.