Quality of Vegetables that are currently being grown all over the Country
9th Jul 1997
Ahead of Time
There's no doubt in my mind that this season will be one of those that will produce the best all round vegetables that we have seen in years. I"m even prepared to stick my neck out and say that our August show will have some superb specimens if the phone calls I'm having are any indication of the quality of vegetables that are currently being grown all over the country. One keen grower from Scotland phoned me up to say that he had the best looking vegetables ever, he believed that his produce were at least a month earlier than other seasons and in an area where they would normally have lots of late frosts.
There seems to be some super leeks and exhibition onions being grown as well, with plenty of good sized specimens around, undoubtedly the early August shows should have some really top quality stuff. My problem this year is where to stage my vegetables as both the Welsh and the National Championships are very late on in the year with the National being held on the last weekend in September. Normally at this time of year my vegetables are going over the top and even though I have sowed a few seed later they don't seem to achieve the same quality as those sown on the normal dates.
My leeks are very advanced this year with some of them measuring 6½" around during the first week of June and the exhibition onions from my own selected seed measuring 15½" around. If they carry on as they are I may well be tempted to change my strategy for this year and have a go at some of the earlier but still prestigious shows such as Shrewsbury or Southport; we'll just have to wait and see.
Onions for the under 8 ounces class have grown well for me this year with the latest variety Toughball looking very promising. This variety has a much deeper shape than Buffalo and needs to be harvested when 10" around whereas with the Buffalo can be pulled when 10½" around. The best way of course is to check your own onions, the first one to arrive at 10 around, pull it, trim the roots and cut off the tops, and then weigh it. Depending on it's shape and weight you can then adjust the measurement so that all the others when fully harvested will end up at eight ounces (227grms) or just under.
These onions need to be kept under daily scrutiny when they are approaching their optimum size so that they can all be pulled at the same size. This attention to detail will more than repay you as you will have a much larger selection from which you can eventually select you final dish or dishes. When I start pulling the onions I trim the roots and cut off the foliage leaving approximately 2" of neck, they are then placed on an old blanket in the potting shed until I have managed to lift most of them.
Within a week I usually have the best from the bed and it is only at this time that I clean them down to one whole unsplit skin. Every onion is then washed with some tepid water containing a drop of washing up liquid, dried with a soft towel and powdered over using ordinary talcum powder applied with a pad of cotton wool. If you can still get hold of some Zinc Starch and Talc I would dearly love to know where you can get it as this particular product imparted a lovely skin colour on to the bulbs. Leaving them until you have sufficient to clean up together means that they will ripen together which again means that you will have more to select from with a uniform skin colour.
Once I have completed this preparation work, they are placed on some fine saw dust, preferably hardwood as it seems to impart a beautiful skin colour, this was particularly true with Buffalo and my dishes of this variety in the past used to have a completely different skin colour to others in the class.
The best place I have found to keep them is in the spare bedroom (provided you have an understanding wife!) they ripen slowly in this dry environment, but do go through them at least once a week to make sure that none have deteriorated. Take great care when handling them from now on as the least mark or scratch can throw you out of a winning position in a really keen class. Carry them to the show sitting on some saw dust to prevent them knocking against each other.
The onions will be judged to the following criteria:
|Shape and Colour||3 points|