Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Lovely things to do #5: Go to Newcastle Allotment Show

An empty fairground, just before the show opened.
Today's lovely thing to do, is an oldie but a goodie. It's nearly three months since we went to the 15th annual Newcastle Allotment Show, but if you think about it we're actually closer to the next one that you'll be able to attend than we would be if I'd written this up the next day, so basically this post is still relevant and totally worth me writing up. You may never have been to an allotment show before in which case you are totally missing out. Let the pictures of insane veg commence!

Veg as far as the eye would care to see
We attended this thing once before, four years back. I was badly hungover and found all the giant vegetables sort of threatening. This year I was in a much better clip and it was going to take more than a mutant-sized cauliflower to put me off my stride. Whereas in the past the thing was held at the Civic Centre, this year it was in Leazes Park. Apart from allowing for all sorts of outdoorsy activities, like a fun fair, circus acts and what have you, having the actual allotment show in the middle of a green space felt apt. Good one, Council. It cost £3 to get in. You can hardly buy a decent kick in the nuts for £3 nowadays, what with the crash in the pound and Brexit and everything, so I'm calling this a bargain.

There's been a leek
In the north we seem to get obsessed by competing to grow just a few things. At the Harrogate Flower Show there were more variations of daffodils than I could actually believe. How anyone was meant to figure out which was the grand champion daff was beyond me. It seems that the leek performs this role in the shadowy world of competitive veg. Someone needs to come up with a theory to explain this, something about the narcissism of small differences. I wonder if Freud had northern leek-slingers in mind when he came up with that? Anyway, never mind Freud, look at all these leeks, it's mental! Which is the best? Which leek is the most heroic, worthy and fabulous?

This one, that's which. Just look at that girthy big bastard with its perfect blanching and its emerald leaves in splendid formation. Well, hellooo there, you sexy little bitch of a leek! Twit-twoo! Etc. Actually there was none of that type of chat at the event, just lots of people looking at it and nodding to themselves, as if they knew they were in the presence of greatness. I kept my thoughts to myself so as not to appear weird or get arrested, like normal.

Away from the leeks, I particularly enjoyed the "Arrangement" category. This one came third, but I liked it best for its naturalistically arranged riot of colour and variety of produce.

Oceanic White-Tips
Look at these bloody cabbage. How do they do it? How do they keep them so free of slug and other similar damage? The patterns of their capacious leaves reminded me of breaking waves in a vast ocean, such as the Atlantic or maybe the Pacific, which, if you think about it, is quite an achievement for a cabbage. You don't get that from the ones in Lidl.

I don't know what the fuck this was all about. I hope it was by a child because if not there's a sick and devious mind on the loose. It freaked me out. Nil points. It's got a spring onion shoved up its arse, for Christs sake. Shit ain't right, not even slightly.

The competition
Obviously as we were wandering about we had the occasional thought about whether there were any categories we could actually enter next time, and I think there is. That pumpkin, top right? It won the biggest pumpkin award.

Here's Kasia with a pic of our crop a couple of weeks before harvest. We just grew these suckers without trying to get really big ones. What could we achieve if we actually put our minds to it? Next year we'll find out. I want to get on that goddamn podium!

As well as all the fruit and veg to admire there was another tent with all manner of food, nature and outdoors-related stalls. I made a bee-line for a couple of food stalls I've been meaning to hit up for a while at this type of thing but always missed.

Northumbrian Smokehouse
Steve Peart runs Northumbrian Smokehouse and everything that I tried was flat-out delicious. Steve admitted to having ruined an awful lot perfectly good food in trying to figure out recipes for all his products. The mushroom pâté was wonderful,as were his smoked cheeses and the smoked black pud. In each case the smoke added something to the flavour of the thing in question, rather than batter it into submission. You can go and check him out at the Jesmond Food Market on Armstrong Bridge, this Saturday (17th Dec) for some last minute gifts.

Pete's Proper Pease Pudding
I'd always been a bit dube about the idea of a gourmet pease pudding product, but I was bang wrong, as Pete's stuff is great. Both the cheesey one and the Marmite one use a tangy extra flavour to add something to the calm steadiness of the main ingredient. Highly recommended. 

As, indeed, is the whole Allotment Show. We had a fine morning. If you're interested at all in growing stuff you will too, so watch out for it next year. Even if you're not, just come and gawp at the stuff, it'll do you good to get out of the house. One final note of happiness and optimism- Benwell Allotments (Bo! Shout out!) won most improved site, which filled me with all manner of pride.

Lovely thing to do rating: I'm going for an 8. If we win the pumpkin thing next year I'll change that to a 10. Is that a bribe? Damn straight.


  1. To be honest I've never understood the show judging either and am always amazed that taste never comes into it, There again to keep things pest free probably mean spray, spray and spray so maybe the judges daren;y eat anything!

    1. Funny business isn't it. Totally removed from what we do on our plot. Apart from with regards to next year's pumpkin crop...


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