The Garden News Top Tray
12th Nov 1997
The competition is for a display of three types of vegetables from the following list of eight, the quantity of each vegetable required for the display is as follows- 3 Carrots, 2 cauliflower, 3 onions, 3 parsnips, 6 peas, 3 potatoes, 6 runner beans and 6 tomatoes. Each type of vegetable will be judged out of a total of 20 points which are then split into three sections as follows, 7 points for size, shape and colour, 7 points for condition and 6 points for uniformity, the overall mark is therefore out of a total of 20 points.
The vegetables are to be displayed for effect and within an area measuring 18" by 24" without bending any part of them and no part of the exhibit may exceed the size of the tray. This area can be utilised in two ways by either using a tray or board constructed to the above measurements or the area can be measured out and marked directly on to the staging. Where a tray has an edge or lip, it"s the internal measurements that must not exceed 18" by 24". To enhance the exhibit a black cloth is permitted or the tray can be painted, parsley is allowed for garnishing but no other foliage or accessories such as plates, sand, rings etc. will be allowed and the tops of the onions are to be tied or whipped using raffia.
Those therefore are the rules for the competition and even though they are clear enough, growers still make mistakes and return to the show to find the dreaded NAS card (not according to schedule) placed on to their exhibit. One aspect of judging that I hate is to NAS an exhibit, particularly when a particular dish could easily have won the class. However rules are rules and on the day, the show schedule is the judges bible and he must strictly adhere to it.
Recently a colleague of mine was judging quite a large class of top trays and found himself having to NAS over half of them because the grower had not taken time to sit down and read the rules thoroughly. One had his tray constructed too large, another had tied up his onions using green twine where the rules specifically states that they are to be tied with raffia. Another had used old curtain rings under his onions so he too had to be disqualified.
Read the Rules
If you are going to have a go at the Top Tray class next year, then do remember to read the rules carefully so that you wont be disappointed on your return. Also bear in mind that the rules or regulations state that the vegetables are to be displayed for effect, I consider this to be a very important rule and can actually be influential in deciding who wins a class in a tight competition. Staging for effect means that you try and hold the judges interest on to your exhibit alone by staging it in a clean fresh and tidy way.
Make sure that your exhibit is as near faultless as you can get it, any marks on any of the vegetables will mean that the exhibit gets down pointed so if you are doubtful regarding a particular dish then change it for another. Try and look at your own exhibit through the eyes of the judge, be as impartial as you possibly can and don't be blinded by size over condition. As I have said many times before, size is only meritorious when accompanied with quality.
Pay particular attention to cleanliness, wash your carrots clean and in clean water, many times I have seen good carrots staged on the bench that look dull and uninviting for the simple reason that not enough care was taken when washing them. Use only clean water, don"t wash them in water that's already dirty after washing other vegetables, the dirt in the water can easily be ingrained into the carrot making it dull and colourless.