The Role of Vegetable Judges
23rd Nov 2000
The Judges Seminar that we had at the Welsh Branch in October certainly made NVS members present think on a wider plane about the role of judges, I shall now follow the same theme as we have done over the past two weeks of discussing some of those questions.
Q Do the panel think it is fair to award points for internal colour of beetroot when the exhibitor cannot detect this?
I think the question here is do we carry on judging in the same vain as we always have done over many years without calling into question the reasons for doing so. Lets think for a moment why we do cut beetroot in the first place as it has always been a point for controversy, particualr if you cut long beet over the border!
The beetroot is cut to 'determine the colour and condition of flesh' according to the NVS judges guide and to check 'for flesh of a uniform dark colour" according to the RHS book. It is now accepted practice that the cut is made on globe and long beetroot a third down the specimen and perpendicular to the taproot. Prior to this the judges used to take a tiny wedge along the length of the beet and this was deemed sufficient to determine it's colour. Once cut, what does the judge look for?, well he should be looking for a deep red colour with absence of any white rings.
As points are awarded for colour of flesh then it is prudent for the exhibitor to at least cut one of his spare at home to give him some idea of the colour of flesh. If the colour is not uniform and has a few white rings in evident then he has the option of showing them as they are or soak his set for a few hours in a bucket of salty water.
Is this though all really necessary? I don"t think it is, my opinion is that when revisions are carried out in the future on both handbooks I would like to see the cutting of beetroot eliminated. Let me explain why. Prior to the variety Boltardy coming onto the gardening scene all beetroots at that time, fifty years or so ago, had white rings in them. As a selling point to the trade the absence of white rings in beetroot became important and consequently found it's way into our judging routine.
The fact of the matter however is that as we have always claimed that good quality show vegetable are perfectly good for eating, indeed the NVS have a saying ‘if you can't eat it, you don't show it' The fact that red beetroot have white rings in them is of no detriment to the culinary value of that beetroot, indeed once you have boiled them, any white rings that would have been visible prior to boiling would have vanished with the flesh being an uniform red colour - just what the judges ordered! The other point in favour of not cutting is the fact that nearly all beetroot sown for both culinary and exhibition use are F1 hybrids and they all posses marvellous deep red flesh.
I therefore feel that cutting beetroot no longer serves any useful purpose and I dread to think what some judge would do if a they cut a specimen from the variety called Chioggia which has concentric pale red and white rings in the flesh yet when boiled they end up an uniform pale red colour. The judging of Beetroot, both long and globe should be carried out in future on the same basis as carrots, i.e. no cutting and the meritorious attributes being Condition, Uniformity, Shape, Size, and Colour.
Q In view of the fact that vegetables on the backboard of collections are more difficult to inspect, and if they are removed and inspected thoroughly it is difficult to put them back as neatly as the exhibitor had them originally. Do the panel think they should:-
- Discourage the use of the traditional backboard
- Insist that the vegetables on the backboard are removable
- Accept them at face value.
This is a difficult one because there are two conflicting issues here, the need for the judge to satisfy himself that the vegetables on the backboard are in sound and good condition whilst on the other hand he has to be aware that the public coming to the marquee or hall are there to see beautiful and spectacular exhibits, not mutilated specimens hanging all over the board. The first thing is obvious the judge has to be able to get in and amongst the backboard specimens whether they be Cauliflower's, Celery or Leeks, but why? Isn't just looking at them enough?
The answer must be no, the judge must always stick to the judging guide lines so he has to satisfy himself that, for instance, Celery heart is intact and not been affected by heart rot or that it hasn't started to go to seed. The leeks must be firm or solid have no split skins and uniform in length and again showing no sign of going to seed. The cauliflower's must be firm and uniform with no pest damage and the outer edges of the curd mustn't be ‘blown' Some of the above criteria you can actually make your mind on by just looking at them, uniformity or split skins for example, but the others will need to be handled.
If at all possible, when I am judging collections, I always try and remove the individual stands from the backboard for a close look but if there is any chance of the display being disturbed then I would have to make my assessment on what is clearly visible to the eye. I have gained sufficient experience in the game to know what to look for and generally, I can tell straight away by the method the exhibitor would have used for staging whether or not he is trying to hide something.
Personally I would be very much against doing away with the use of backboards, indeed I think it should be encouraged with added points being given for the manner in which the vegetables are displayed.
Let me know what you think.