Prize Winning Onions
15th Nov 2002
I have had the best year ever with onions, not only the large exhibition ones, but with the small onions as well. These are the ones in the show schedule under the class name 'onions under 250 gram'. This class is usually well attended with many entries of a very high calibre as it is the sort of class that nearly everyone can have a go at. Many years ago I was the first to introduce the variety Buffalo as a type of onion that would grow well for this sort of class and I won many prizes with it at that time.
The variety however that I have been winning with this year is a brand new variety called Tasco which is being introduced for the first time in my catalogue for the 2002 season. It"s a brilliant onion to grow, very vigorous and has a lovely habit with it's foliage standing bolt upright on the plant making it a joy to look at in a row or bed. The best thing of all though about this onion is it"s naturally waxy foliage which provides good tolerance against Downy Mildew. Undoubtedly this disease has been devastating all over the country, particularly for growers on allotments so it could be a great help for them.
I get many letters from a variety of growers regarding many topics, and one very interesting letter came from Mr Roy Tudor of Blackwood Gwent. Roy is undoubtedly one of the top judges in the UK and is always in demand to judge shows of all sizes varying from the ordinary local village show to the more prestigious National events. Roys letter was concerned with the fact that he had to N.A.S. (Not according to schedule) two dishes of onions in the under 250 gram classes at two different shows this year. The reason for the disqualification being that one onion in each set was over the limit by 5 grams.
Roy feels that quite a number of exhibitors are trying to push their onions right up to the limit, in other words, they are trying to get a set with every onion spot on 250 gram. This of course is a very dangerous move as it then offers the exhibitor no tolerance whatsoever should there be a problem with the weighing scales. It is now accepted practice to weigh every onion in each dish to make sure that they are under the 250 gram limit, and this where the problem comes in. Many growers will use an ordinary kitchen type balanced spring scales to check their onions and these I have to say are far from satisfactory giving you a variety of different weights every time you use them.
I have a small diet type scales (not that I use them I hasten to add, they belong to my daughter!!) and these go to just over 250 gram and seem to reasonably satisfactory. However the trouble with all these is what's called 'Parallax Error', a term that was used often during my years as an Apprentice tool maker when using the Vernier or Micrometer (measuring instruments). In the dictionary the term Parallax means ‘an apparent change in the position of an object resulting from a change in position of the observer' In simple terms it means that whenever you look at the indicator or finger on the front of such scales, your eye line should always be at the same position every time.
This of course is not always easy and the problem really arises when the grower enters the show and has his onions weighed electronically. I have just purchased a new one of these (I persuaded the wife that she could do with a new one in the kitchen!!) and they really are accurate, I have re weighed items on it over and over again with the same digital reading coming up every time. This is therefore what happened to Roy, the electronic scales showed these onions to be definitely too heavy for their class.
Now I know Roy is a fair judge and a man of integrity and there is no way that he goes judging hoping to NAS some exhibit, Roy sticks strictly to the show schedule. Every judge knows full well that the Show Schedule he is given for any show that he judges on a given day is his bible for that show. It doesn't matter what any other schedule says or mentions, it's what's in the schedule for that show that counts. It is therefore very important that show schedule writers or show secretaries use the correct wording every time.
RHS Horticultural Show Handbook
The crunch here once again is the use of the words ‘Should' and ‘Must' and I quote the definition of these two words from the RHS Horticultural Show Handbook (The word ‘should' is often used where ‘must' is intended and vice versa. ‘Should' leaves what follows optional; ‘must' makes what follows obligatory. The inadvertent substitution of the one word for the other may cause an exhibit to be disqualified or free it from liability to disqualification). In my opinion, and I don't know which word was used in Roys schedule, if the word ‘should' was used I would take it to mean ‘must' and NAS the exhibit.
The point here is that there is a distinct weight to be complied with, yes, I hear you say it's only 5 grams, but what happens if you allow this to pass by on this occasion. Perhaps the next time you may come across a set with an onion 10 or even 15 grams over, would you let that pass by as well! I think not. It really is time that show schedule writers, in cases where there is a distinct stipulation regarding weight and size such as the 250 gram onion class and the pickling shallot class; if the intention is for the exhibitor to comply with the weight or size then the wording has to be ‘Must'.