ABC of Vegetables - Part 4
7th Jul 1999
This is the fourth and final part in my series on the ABC of vegetables showing which varieties are best for both kitchen and 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.
U - Onions - For the large exhibition classes these need to be sown just before Christmas in a warm greenhouse; the use of good quality artificial lights will certainly increase the size of the onions. For really top quality bulbs, they must be grow on under cover in either a polytunnel or a greenhouse. Sow a good selection of the Kelsae type two weeks before Christmas which will give you good bulbs by mid August. For the onions that have to be 8 ounces or under (227grams RHS or 250 grams or less NVS) sow either Bison or Toughball in a warm greenhouse from mid January. These can either be potted on into 7" pots where they will grow on to maturity or planted up in a polytunnel for really clean skins. Start harvesting when around 10.5 inches circumference from around the end of June and check the weight whilst making an allowance for the neck to dry down. Points for large exhibition onions - RHS points - Condition 5, Size 5, Shape and Colour5, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 5, Colour 2. Total 20 points. Points for 8 ounce and under onions - RHS points - Condition 5, Size 3, Shape and Colour 3, Uniformity 4. Total 15 points. NVS points - Condition 5, Uniformity 3, Shape 3, Size 2, Colour 2. Total 15 points.
V - Parsnips - A popular class at most shows and very well contested at the highest level. They must be grown above soil level in raised beds of sand or drums or pipes for best results. Bore a hole four foot deep and 3.5 inches diameter at the top and fill with compost. Sow early to get the biggest and best roots - mid February sowing will guarantee top quality specimens for mid August onwards. There are a number of top quality F1 hybrid varieties available such as Gladiator, Javelin or Panache any one of which will produce top show quality and kitchen roots. RHS points - Condition 6, Size and Shape 5, Colour 4, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 4, Size 3, Colour 3. Total 20 points.
W - Peas - Not too difficult to produce large pods for mid August but can be a problem to produce them for mid September onwards, particularly for growers in the South. For the very best pods they have to be grown on the cordon system where the leading shoot is tied to an eight foot cane and all side shoots and tendrils removed. The best variety undoubtedly is a good re selection of Show Perfection which is capable of producing pods 7 to 8 inches in length with upwards of 13 peas per pod. This variety takes 90 to a 100 days from sowing to producing show quality peas. RHS points - Condition 7, Fullness and Size of Pod 5, Colour 3, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Size 4, Fullness of Pod 4, Colour 2. Total 20 points.
X - Potatoes - There are always classes for these at all shows but for the very best tubers, thorough preparation of the growing medium is absolutely essential if you are to stage a blemish free dish. Grow them in polythene bags using a peat-based medium or prepare trenches lined with straw and again filled with a peat-based medium. Sow early May so that the crop can be harvested from mid August, graded and kept unwashed in boxes full of the same growing medium so that the roots will keep until required for various shows through to October. There are some excellent varieties available but my choice would be Winston as a white, Kestrel as part coloured and Maxine as coloured. RHS points - Condition 5, Size 3, Shape 4, Eyes 3, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points - Condition 5, Uniformity 5, Shape 4, Size 3, Eyes 3. Total 20 points.
Y - Shallots (Exhibition) - One of the easiest of vegetables to grow for the kitchen but definitely not easy to grow to a high standard for exhibiting. Traditionally sown on the shortest day, 21st December and harvested on the longest 21st June. As soil conditions are rarely suitable at that time of year it is best to start them off in pots and plant out during early March when the soil can be prepared better. There are two varieties available for show, Hative de Niort and Aristocrat, both of which are excellent and bulbs can be purchased during the Winter months. RHS points - Condition 7, Size and Shape 4, Colour 2, Uniformity 5. Total 18 points. NVS points- Condition 6, Uniformity 3, Shape 3, Size 3, Colour 3. Total 18 points. Shallots Pickling Easier to grow to exhibition standard than the above as it only needs to grow to an inch in diameter, can be planted as above but kept in clumps in a small pot until they arrive at the right size. RHS points - Condition 4, Size and Shape 4, Colour 2, Uniformity 2. Total 12 points. NVS points- Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 2, Size 2, Colour 2. Total 16 points.
Z - Tomatoes - As with most vegetables it pays to spend some time in the preparation of the growing area whether it be in Gro bags or a mixture of soil, manure and Gro bags. A good way of growing them is in ring culture pots on top of the Gro bag, planting only two plants per bag to allow for adequate root development. Sow seed towards the end of February/ early March to have ripened fruits for staging from the middle of August. The best variety if you can get hold of it is still Goldstar but some of the newer hybrids such as Solution, Ferrari and Virginia are now starting to make their mark on the show scene. RHS points - Condition 5, Colour 5, Size and Shape 5, Uniformity 5. Total 20 points. NVS points- Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 4, Size 3, Colour 4. Total 20 points.