Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mutant Veg = Jealousy/ Bemusement

So last Sunday, with a head that felt like it was filled with aching fur, I trotted with Kasia down to Newcastle Civic Centre to have a look at the Allotment and Garden Show.
It seemed to me to be pretty well attended, although I've never been to one of these things before so I wouldn't really know. There were heaps of entrants in all sorts of categories, from mixed displays like the above, to less demanding disciplines such as "Five French Beans, on a plate". There were also a bunch of fine folks from Friends of the Earth's Bee division, handing out info about the plight of our friends from the Apoida superfamily, and a nice woman involved in a research project that's trying to build an evidence base on various aspects of "grow your own" activities, in order to persuade governments of the future to support such things. If you're interested in helping the research by weighing your produce, have a look here.

But anyway, back to the veg. And what veg! God alone knows what these guys are feeding their leeks and cabbages, but honestly, it felt like walking through a vegetable freak-show. If I hadn't been concerned with trying to avoid breathing booze-fumes over all and sundry I'd have liked to ask: what is the criteria here? There were certainly some mega-sized efforts kicking around but what else comes into it? Shinyness? Consistency? Symmetry?! And how in the name of all that's holy is it possible to grow leeks like those??!! There were plenty of notes on the entries that didn't win saying what was wrong with them, but it seemed less clear what distinguished the champions.

Me, hungover, considering a vast cabbage.
Uber-Leeks, as far as the eye can see.
Look at the blanching on those leeks!
I'm assuming - unless people are taking sneaky sample nibbles - that the judging is all based on aesthetic qualities and not at all on taste, which does seem a bit odd. What seems further odd, perhaps even verging on paradoxical (!), is that a good deal of the produce on display was clearly showing signs of fatigue, having been out of the soil for some time. So, in order for the veg to be assessed, some of it is rendered inedible, which seems a shame. I for one would like to know what a four-foot carrot tastes like. Clearly the people growing this stuff have got so much regular sized veg kicking about that they can afford to put great effort and expense into growing things that would need a chainsaw, rather than a knife, to cut them up. We left with eyes newly opened, a bit jealous.

Things looking fine

Back in the land of normal sized food, we headed down the plot in order to have a look around. Nothing dramatic to report, crops generally ticking over quite nicely. The pumpkins continue to ripen, albeit slowly. After another flying visit, this was the last time we'd see our patch until today, due to a quick holiday in Dublin. Even 5 days away seems like a bit of a wrench at this time of year, but I was off to see Leonard Cohen, so needs must. Hurrah for Toni, who watered our patch!

Come on lads, you can do it


  1. Growing vegetables for shows is almost a full time job and to my mind is a totally different thing to normal growing of vegetables to eat. Taste isn't really an issue although I guess some of the produce will taste good. I don't really care what our fruit and vegetables look like as long as I enjoy eating them.

    1. Snap. I'm looking forward to digging up our parsnips before long, not least as I'm pretty sure they'll be in some pretty odd shapes! I've got a lot of admiration for the folks entering the more competitive sections of this show, but I think I'll leave them to it. Saying that, there was some fairly normal looking rhubarb being entered; perhaps that's the category for us!

  2. I know what you mean about size. I have seen some major sized veg myself but I am all into taste as-well. I also like quite my unique looking carrots and cucumbers and fat to thin courgettes. I think growing my own has taught me more about why produce can be so expensive as you only get the good looking ones in the shops too. I don't think I would want to enter a show of this calibre as I grow to eat and not to show...I'm not sure with all the effort needed it would be possible to do both!!

  3. I'd be interested to try these mega-veg; I'm assuming they lack flavour compared to more modest sized varieties, but would like to know for sure.

  4. Bet it's more than hen shit ??
    Your allotment looking good.

    1. Ta. I reckon some mixture of hen shit, steroids and kind words must be the key to it.


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