How to Exhibit Vegetables for Competition
In the vegetables section, merit depends on condition, size, uniformity and freedom from disease or pest. Condition covers cleanliness, freshness, tenderness, and absence of coarseness and blemishes. The size of the vegetables may be somewhat larger than that normally seen at a greengrocer’s; however, the judges look not only for size but for quality as-well. Uniformity means similarity of size, form and colour.
KINDS OR VARIETIES
The words ‘kinds’ and ‘varieties’ occur frequently in show schedules, so be careful to exhibit exactly what is specified. For instance, if ‘four kinds of vegetables’ are asked for, then potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots and peas could be entered, not four different varieties of one kind of vegetable. Kelvedon Wonder and Meteor are different varieties of the same kind of vegetable—peas—so both would not be eligible for the same class.
Schedules often include, at the end of a section, a class for ‘any other kind of vegetable not included above’, and here again confusion can arise. If, for instance, there is a class for ‘long carrots’ in the main section, but not a class for ‘stump-rooted carrots’, the latter could not be included in the class for ‘any other vegetable’, as they are merely different types of carrot, already provided for in the schedule. The same rule applies to globe and long beet. But for show purposes savoy cabbage is a different kind of vegetable from green cabbage, so that savoy cabbage and green cabbage could be exhibited as two separate kinds of vegetable.
CARROTS AND PARSNIPS
Carrots of show standard are not easy for beginners to produce, but a dish of good long carrots is well worth staging and looks very impressive on the bench. Cut back the tops to about l in. and tie neatly with raffia or green twist. Carefully sponge the roots with clean, cold water, but do not scrub or treat them roughly or the tender skin will be damaged. Remove root hairs but preserve the long tap root.
Although it is not easy to lift well-grown long carrots in dry weather without breaking the root, it can be done. Carefully dig down at the side of the root, then flood the hole with water. When the water has drained away, ease the root from the other side, pulling gently but firmly. It should then come out intact. The same treatment can be applied to parsnips. While the carrots are growing, earth them up or give them a good deep mulch, to prevent the shoulders becoming greened by exposure, which in keen competition is a major fault. Stage the carrots or parsnips attractively on a plate covered with parsley.
Cauliflowers for exhibition should have clean, large, white, even curds of good texture. Trim the stems before exhibiting. A pair of really good cauliflowers is extremely valuable for inclusion in a collection of vegetables.
Well-grown celery makes an imposing exhibit. The heads should be large and solid (but not coarse), well blanched and free from slug or other pest damage, with roots neatly trimmed back to the base of the leafstalks. The stalks should be thick and not stringy or pithy, and should be tied together at the top. There should be no sign of seeding. Judges may cut through the middle of the heads to see if seeding has started.
Blanched leeks, as distinct from pot leeks, are first-class subjects for the show bench. Really good leeks, 2 to 2-½ in. in diameter with at least a l-ft. length of blanch, stand a good chance of winning the ‘Best in the Show’ Blue Ribbon. Treat the leeks very carefully. To lift them from the ground, tie the tops together in at least two places, then fork round the leeks and ease them out.
Do not cut off the roots, but hold them under running cold water, teasing them out until all theis removed and the roots are white and clean. Just before leaving home for the show, remove the minimum number of damaged, discoloured or split outer leaves until good, clean, perfectly-blanched leeks are left.
Then wipe them with a damp cloth so that they are perfectly white. Wrap each leek in clean white tissue paper to protect it from discoloration, then bundle three or six leeks together in several sheets of newspaper and tie carefully. Exhibit the leeks with full length of leaves neatly tied up, or with the’ ends just tipped if they are extra long.
Judges usually stick a thumb-nail into the top end ofto test the vegetables’ youth and tenderness, and if the skin is hard and resists the nail, the marrows will be passed over. In shows from July onward, there is invariably a class for ‘a pair of table marrows’. In such a class it would be a great mistake to exhibit a pair of very large marrows weighing 20 lb. Apiece; what is required is a young pair, about 10 in. long, well matched, and just right for eating.
There is more merit in winning first prize in this class than almost any other, except that for a collection of vegetables, for onions are a great test of the grower’s skill; half a dozen onions weighing about 2 to 3 lb. Each will almost certainly win a prize at a local show. The onions should be sound, well matched, well ripened and have thin necks. Provided they are being entered in open classes, there is no reason why the same six onions should not win first prize at half a dozen different shows. The disadvantage of this practice is that judges poke their thumbs into the base of the necks of the onions to test for sound-ness, and this eventually induces softness, thus rendering the onions unfit for further competitions.
Spring-sown onions should always be shown with their tops, but the tops of autumn-sown onions and those produced from a box-sowing in January should be allowed to wither; they should then be cut back to about 3 in., turned downward, and neatly tied with raffia or green twist.
To stage six onions really effectively, make six rings from a cardboard cylinder 2-½ in. in diameter, cutting three rings 2 in. deep and the other three 1-¼ in. deep. Set out the rings with the taller ones at the back and place the onions on them.
For exhibition purposes choose young, large, well-filled pods that are uniform in size, have their natural bloom intact, and show no signs of greyness. Cut the pods from the plants with a pair of scissors and handle them only by the stalks. To test for fullness, hold the peas up to a strong light to see the seeds. If they are maggoty do not include them in the exhibition entry, as they may well be the ones the judges open. Stage the peas on a plain plate or in a shallow basket.
Potatoes should be of uniform medium size, shallow eyed, of good shape, and with clean, unbroken skin free from blemishes. Try to stage specimens that are characteristic of their variety.
Stage the potatoes on a plate, rose end outward and with the best specimen on top. Place sprigs of parsley between them.
Runner beans are popular for autumn shows. Twelve beans are usually called for. They should be young, long and straight, of even size, with stalks and little or no outward sign of seeds. The judge will take a sample bean and snap it in two to test for plumpness and tenderness. The break should be clean and the section full, that is, with no piping down the middle. Stage the beans in a row or pile them on a plain plate.
Twelve shallots are usually asked for in the schedule, and these should be well ripened, uniform in size, not too large, thin necked, and very firm, with an unbroken outer skin. Shorten the stems to about l in., double back and tie neatly.
Stage the shallots, bedded upright on parsley or sand, on a medium-sized plate TOMATOES For the ‘grown-out-of-doors’ class, select large, perfectly round fruits, uniform in size and of good colour. Be sure that they are ripe but quite firm, and complete with stalk. Stage theupside down on cotton wool in a round basket. Be very careful in handling and in transporting to the show, to avoid bruising the fruits. Bruising may induce a soft spot, which the judges are sure to find.
CLASS FOR A COLLECTION OF VEGETABLES
This is generally regarded as the premier class in a mixed show. The winner may secure the Blue Ribbon for the best entry in the show, or a medal if the class carries one.
Four or six different kinds of vegetables are usually required. The quantities of each kind are generally specified in the schedule as being the same as those for the separate classes, but the choice of kinds in the collection is usually left to the exhibitor.
When making up a collection of vegetables, it is important to include the kinds that carry the highest points. The R.H.S. Horticultural Show Handbook gives a scale of points.
The maximum number of points allotted to any one kind of vegetable is 20, and carrots, cauliflowers, celery, leeks, onions, peas, potatoes andall carry the maximum points, while runner and dwarf beans and carry 18 points each. These are, therefore, the kinds to choose for a collection. If the exhibitor can include these high pointed vegetables in his collection, he can afford to lose more points on each than a competitor with a mixture of high and low pointed vegetables.
If a number of individual classes are entered as well as the collection, it is best to put the best exhibit in the collection, for this class gains greater prestige than individual classes.