Transferring Vegetables to the Show
9th Sep 1998
It always amazes me when I enter a flower show marquee and see the way that some exhibitors are obviously mistreating their exhibits after having spent weeks and months trying hard to grow a near perfect specimen. Having spent all that time in nurturing your produce, surely it makes sense to pack them and carry them to the show in strong boxes so that the risk of any accident resulting in a blemish to your vegetables is reduced to the minimum.
An Early Lesson
I learnt this lesson very early in my growing and showing hobby when both my father and I went to stage a collection of vegetables at the Shrewsbury Flower show. On this particular occasion I used a small trailer behind the car and everything, or so I thought, was packed properly inside it. On arriving at the show I found to my horror that the onions had suddenly developed a flattish side to them, the reason being the constant bouncing of the trailer along the road. The onions were wrapped up in newspaper and packed tight together in a strong cardboard box. Inside a car they would have been fine, but it never entered my head that the bouncing of the trailer would bang the onions against each other. However, after staging the onions on the stand with the best face forward, I still managed to win the red card!
The more vulnerable the produce, the more care has to be taken in its packing and quite honestly I find that I can spend hours after the washing and selecting of the vegetables in just wrapping and packing them properly. After that experience at Shrewsbury, I had proper boxes made from strong plywood to carry most of the produce. Strangely it was at Shrewsbury Show that I learnt another lesson as well; never leave the tops on your roots longer than 3". This was at the National Vegetable Society Championships some years ago when the judges had a purge on this very point. Many exhibits that had long carrots or parsnips in them were disqualified because they had tops in excess of 3". Even a collection of six kinds was disqualified that year. So do take heed as they don't write rules such as the above in schedules just for the fun of it; they are there to be observed and if you don"t observe them, the judge might leave you very disappointed.
I have two onion boxes made, one with four partitions in it and the other with six, the latter to carry onions where the schedule states that 5 or 6 onions are required to make a dish. The four partition box I use to carry three onions for my collections and the spare compartment always comes in handy to store the strips or squares of black cloth that I use underneath my long roots etc.
The base of each compartment has a small square of soft sponge glued down to it on which the onion rests and more pieces of sponge are then carefully pushed down around the onion so that it is properly secured. Each compartment is 8" square which can cater for the largest onion that I'm likely to exhibit. If the day comes when the compartments are too small, then I shall certainly not be too concerned about spending some money to have a bigger one made! The depth of the box is 12" which can accommodate a fairly long neck on a relatively deep onion. Once you have such a box made, itwill last you for years and you can be certain that, when you pack the boxes on top of each other in the car, no damage can possibly occur.
A Word of Caution
One word of caution. On your return from the show, even though it may be very late and you are tired, do take time to remove the onion boxes from the car and leave their lids open. Often at shows held on grass and under canvas, the humidity levels can be quite high and any onions that have taken in some moisture won't like being stuck in a box with no air flow around them. On the next day, remove the raffia from around the necks for the same purpose.
Carrot and Parsnip Boxes
The carrots and parsnips have boxes made for them as well which measure 4ft long 10" wide and 4" deep.Tthese were also made from plywood and the bases have also got some soft sponge glued to them. Another larger box is valuable as well and needs to be really well built; some exhibitors rely totally on such a box to carry all their exhibits, apart from the large onions. Such a box needs to be in the region of 4ft long and 15" wide and 18" deep. Often these boxes can have smaller ones inside them where the tomatoes, cucumbers and 8 ounce onions etc. can be kept.
You may think that going to all this trouble and expense is taking things a little bit too far and just not worth the trouble but just consider the alternative; if the handles of your supermarket carrier bag tears away and your best onions roll all over the floor or the bottom of the cardboard box falls open, is it worth it then?