Judging of Vegetables
30th Nov 2000
Over the past few weeks I have been dealing with the judging of vegetables hoping to have some feed back from some growers and judges who read this column. As I said in my first article, the Judging of horticultural produce is not an exact science and never will be and a decision often rests on something about which two opinions are tenable. To quote from the RHS Horticultural Show Handbook - 'Judging is the exercise of deciding degree of merit within agreed parameters. It is based on familiarity, knowledge and the insight gained from experience. It is most important that the criteria by which the subjects are to be judged are observed and abided by to the exclusion of all other considerations'.
The above statement came to mind when, during the October judges Seminar at the Welsh Branch of the NVS, one of the questions asked was:
Q Should the NVS insist on candidates sitting the examination having a level of experience of exhibiting before hand? What is the panels view?
This is a very valid question because any member of the NVS can sit the examination and pass the exam. Once you have passed the examination there is no barrier preventing that judge from judging at the highest level. The person sitting the examination may well be a right swot and capable of learning all the information from the judges guide and passing the theory part of the examination. However he could also pass the practical provided that the classes are reasonably straight forward.
My opinion is that anybody who passes the judges exam may well be qualified NVS judges but I don"t think that they are ready, at that point, to judge Branch or National championships where there is a great deal at stake with top growers having spent hours growing and preparing the finest quality vegetables. I well remember passing my driving test many years ago and I can still remember the examiners words just before he left the car 'You may well have just passed your driving examination, but do remember, it doesn't make you a good driver just yet"
Experience of exhibiting is important as the judges needs to know, in difficult classes, how well a dish has been grown and how well it can be grown. I have seen some marvellous classes staged at our Nationals, I have also seen judges, inevitably through lack of experience, get their decision wrong. Some judges who are inexperienced, when faced with top quality vegetables that are on view at the highest level, seem to panic and, in my opinion, that is when the mistakes are made.
On this point I would like to end by quoting from the great Edwin Beckets marvellous book on ‘Vegetables for Home and Exhibition' which was written in 1927; under the heading for ‘Judges and Judging he says ‘Horticultural societies should employ the very best men it is possible to obtain to act as judges of vegetables. These should be good, practical men in whom the exhibitors generally can place every confidence. As a rule those who have been exhibitors make the best adjudicators, though, for various reasons there are exceptions to this general rule. Judges are frequently selected who have never stood out conspicuously as exhibitors, and have done little to warrant their appointment, and when this is the case, competitors have but little confidence in their judgement'
Q What is good colour in vegetables? Is it :-
The typical colour for that cultivar?
A stronger colour than usual?
For example:- Should a yellow tomato or a yellow carrot be of equal merit to the traditional types? Could a pale green variety of Runner bean be awarded full points for colour? Are dark skinned onions preferable to light skinned ones? Are cultivars that have a greenish finish when ripe acceptable?
There is no doubt that good strong colour certainly helps persuade some judges to award good points for colour, for instance many years ago I introduced the variety Corrie on to the show scene and I exhibited it for the first time when the Nationals were held at Wisley. At that time the majority of carrots staged were the Chantenay non hybrid types such as Supreme and Favourite. When the wraps were taken off just prior to judging, my set stood out amongst the twenty or so exhibited, purely because of it's bright red colour, and I am sure that must have gone a long way towards gaining me the red card on that occasion.
As the breeders are introducing newer varieties upon us such as Yellowstone carrot, the first ever F1 hybrid, and soon we will have a purple skinned F1 hybrid carrot to contend with. Is it right that more points for colour should be awarded to those who are red in preference to the others. The way forward here has to be to treat them all as equal, be the colour yellow red or purple as that particualr colour can only be typical of that cultivar.
The same applies to onions, I feel that dark skinned ones are more likely to gain favour from some judges as the dark colour would seem to infer solidity and good keeping qualities. However the fact is that the lighter coloured ones are of that colour simply because of their breeding line and are therefore true to type and should be dealt with in exactly the same way as the darker skinned ones. Of course with dark skinned onions it is imperative that the judge is aware that the disease Botrytis can affect the condition and colour of an onion and in such cases they should be down pointed.
Judges must always make sure that they are impartial and should never allow their own likes or dislikes to cloud their judgement. I close with another quote from the RHS Show Handbook ‘Most people who posses the knowledge necessary for judging have some personal preferences and prejudices which they know do not find general acceptance. A judge must take care to see that he/she is not swayed by personal views'
Again I would like to hear comments via the editor.