Wisley Summer Fruit & Vegetable Competition + Large Exhibition Onions
10th Aug 2000
Wisley Summer Fruit & Vegetable Competition
I recently travelled down to Wisley to judge the Summer fruit and vegetable competition where the standard was excellent, particularly for so early in the growing season. There were however some really top quality exhibits and two classes in particualr shone out, the white potato class and the onions under 250grm. Both of these classes were won by Mrs Sherie Plumb from Althorne Essex with the Winston potatoes being outstanding in every way. The size was right as were their condition with hardly a blemish to be seen on them. The variety of onion that she used in the under 250grm class was Buffalo.
There is no doubt that more and more ladies are turning to growing their own vegetables judging by the number of requests that I have for my seed catalogue. It was therefore gratifying to see a lady staging outstanding exhibits of vegetables and I just hope that more of you out there will have a go at some of your local shows that are coming up during the next few weeks. Sherie Plumb started off at local shows and is now certainly ready to have a go at the highest level if the exhibits that I saw at Wisley are anything to go by.
If you fancy having a go at your local show, find out who the secretary is and get hold of a show schedule as soon as possible. Study it carefully and find out under which rules the show is being judged. For the novice grower I would also recommend that they purchase a copy of the new revised Horticultural Show handbook which gives you the points value for each vegetable. On top of this, and possibly more important to the first time exhibitor, it tells you under the heading 'Suggestions to Exhibitors' exactly how to treat your vegetable and prepare it ready for the show bench.
Large Exhibition Onions
My large exhibition onions were lifted last week at 22 inches in circumference and currently I am very pleased with them and I should be able to at least have a decent set of three for the collection of vegetables. If yours are ready for lifting, try matching them all for size by measuring around them with a tape and pulling them when they have all achieved whatever size you have decide to show them at. You can do this over a few days so that you can have a quite a few specimens, all the same size, to eventually pick your final set from.
Removing Split Skins
Once you have selected the onions, and a week or so prior to this I would have been around them all removing any split skins down to one even skin all round. This usually means that there may be a few ripples in the onion and the next few days will see those filled up so that by the time the onion is harvested the skins will be even and smooth. Remove the onion by first cutting off the top foliage leaving approx. a five inch neck. Next cut around the roots with an old sharp kitchen knife and then carefully lift the onion from the bed. Trim down the roots cleanly to the root plat and wash carefully with some tepid water with a little added washing up liquid.
Dry the onions with some soft tissue or towelling and then powder them over with some talcum powder. The purpose of this powdering is to dry out the skin of the onions evenly and bring out eventually an even straw colour. Be very careful when handling the onions, they will be heavy and any slight damage with the finger nail may not at first be noticeable but it almost certainly will when the bulbs are fully harvested. Once they have been powdered they are then left to sit on some soft material such as an old blanket or make some rings from tissue paper for then to sit on.
Where to keep the onions is a question often asked and every body seems to have a different opinion on this point. Over the years I have had them in the bedroom, in the potting shed as well as in the greenhouse and garage. I have had some really good onions by leaving them in the greenhouse for a short initial period of five or six days covering them over with some fleece so that they are not being targeted directly by the suns rays. This helps to really dry them out and then they are take to the garage and placed on an old table that has some battens around the edge. The wooden roofing battens are there to hold fine sawdust on which the onions will finally ripen.
Tying with Raffia
Select your best onions a night or two before the show and proceed to tie down the necks with natural raffia making sure that the length of the neck on each onion is the same. This job needs to be done carefully as the onions skin by now will be paper thin and tying the neck down will very often split the skins. Split skins are definitely not desirous and a good judge will down point an exhibit with badly split skins. In order to prevent this happening, moisten the neck with some warm water prior to tying, this will soften up the skin tissue and prevent any cracking. On return from any show, the raffia must be removed and when you want to tie them again for use at another show, always re moisten the neck. Once you have tied the neck, never leave the onion wet make sure that the area round the neck and shoulder are properly dried off.