Welsh Branch Championships of the NVS 1999
25th Aug 1999
We are now approaching the main showing season when the majority of vegetables will be at their peak and ready for harvesting.
Welsh Branch Championships
This coming weekend I shall be travelling down to South Wales to stage at the Welsh Branch Championships of the National Vegetable Society. There is no doubt that over the past few years this show has become one of the main events in the keen vegetable exhibitors' diary. There are 21 competitive classes forming the Welsh Championships, with the addition of a further three classes for the novice grower. The criteria for entering these latter classes is that the grower must have been a member of the NVS for six months prior to the show and have not won a 1st prize in the Welsh Championships previously.
In addition to the above championships, the Welsh branch are also custodians of four major National Championships, ie the Welsh Open Onion Championship for a dish of five onions over 250grms, the National Leek Championship of Great Britain for a dish of three blanch leeks, the National Potato Championship of Great Britain for five dishes of four potatoes( five different varieties, at least two dishes must be coloured) and, finally, the National Tap Root Championship of Great Britain consisting of two parsnips, two beetroot long, two carrots long and two carrots other than long with a definite stump end.
I shall certainly be entering the last class which I have been fortunate in winning on three occasions.
The latest hybrid parsnip called Paragon certainly looks something special with large heavy tops. My method of harvesting these as well as my carrots and long beetroot is to cut off the tops, leaving approximately 4 to 6 inches of stalk, carefully remove about a bucketful of sand from around each one and then thoroughly saturate the sand around them. If you select say three at a time, then you can go back and forth between them making sure that enough water gets down into the lower regions of your drums or beds. Once you are happy that the selected roots are thoroughly moist, start to pull carefully. Once you have the parsnip eased out, turn it right round in its bore hole to snap off any tiny root hairs. If the carrot or parsnip turns around in its own circle then it's a good guide that it"s probably a good true specimen. Continue adding more water and keep pulling the root very gently out of the bore hole; you may well have to pull initially by holding around the body of the parsnip as well as the foliage. Pulling on the foliage alone on a well grown parsnip will end in disaster as the stalks can easily tear away from the shoulder, rendering the specimen useless for show purposes. When doing this, make sure that you wash your hands free of any grit as well as the upper regions of the parsnip and take a firm hold on the flesh; never let your hand twist along the body as it will cause damage.
Once you have the root loosened, you must allow yourself plenty of time for the final withdrawal. The big mistake that a lot of growers make is to pull the root out too quickly when they see about three or four inches of body above the level of the bed. Even when the root seems to be well clear, it can still be attached at the bottom of the bore hole so tease the root out very carefully. It doesn't always come out clean, but when it does it is pure joy to see a perfectly proportioned long carrot or parsnip. Sometimes, after spending a long time trying to coax out a root, the reason for its reluctance to withdraw becomes evident when it finally appears with masses of roots where the specimen in question has forked. It"s when pulling these long roots that I really would like to have X-ray eyes or some other mechanism that would allow me to see the condition or shape of the root!
From their removal to getting them washed, you start praying that the shoulder won't split its skin as this can be heartbreaking and it always seems to happen to the best specimens. I have a number of theories as to how to prevent it happening and Jack Arrowsmith's theory of making sure that the beds are evenly moist throughout their growing period is the one I"m going to try this year. Wash off most of the compost with a hose before immersing them in an old bath. Wash them thoroughly using a soft sponge in a circular motion and make sure that you wash and clean the area around the stalks where soil can become trapped as it really looks bad if the parsnips are staged with dirt still on them. I dry my parsnips with some old soft towels immediately after they have been washed and they are then left on a bench in my cool garage and covered over with a soft cloth and black polythene to totally block out any light.
Select your set carefully bearing in mind all the criteria that the judges will be using; for instance with parsnips under NVS rules, you must make sure that the condition and uniformity is paramount in your mind as together they both carry 10 points, half of the total sum allowed. On no account be blinded by size, even if you have one brilliant specimen; if it doesn't have a few matching partners, leave it at home as size alone is only worth 3 points. Carry them to the show in strong wooden boxes to make sure that they arrive unmarked and stage them side by side on some neatly laid black cloth with the tops away from you and the roots tapering down side by side towards you. Always leave your exhibitors and variety card on the exhibit and cover them over with some black cloth until judging.