Amount required in Dishes at Shows
14th Oct 1998
The flower shows are well gone by now and most of us are busy planning for next years events and as always, full of optimism. There's no doubt that this Summer was a difficult growing season in many ways with very little sun making things rather difficult. Yet I have to say that the quality of some of the vegetables staged has been superb with the parsnips and long carrots by Jack Arrowsmith at the Welsh Championships still vivid in my mind.
There's no doubt that the Welsh Championships together with the four special classes have made this show the highlight of the growing year with top exhibitors prepared to travel several hundred miles in order to participate. One of the reasons I feel for it's success is the number of vegetables that are required in each dish making it possible even for a small novice grower to participate. Most of the dishes ask for three vegetables i.e. carrots other than long, one dish of three; Onions - dish of three, over 250g and even a chance for the novice grower with good leeks as they only ask for two in a dish.
This means that the classes are well attended and very often there up to 20 entries in each class with the short carrots this year having 32 entries.
Things however are not quite the same at some of the other shows that I attend. Shepton Mallet show is relatively new and I have to say that I was disappointed with most of the vegetables staged there. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for the poor quality and quantity of exhibits was the number of vegetables stipulated per dish. If my mind serves me right they were asking for 12 tomatoes, 12 runner beans, 15 shallots and 6 carrots etc.
This sort of quantities is on par with the National Vegetable Society Championships which is the highest standard that any vegetable grower can achieve and makes it very difficult indeed for a gardener with a small growing area to have a go. The main reason of course is uniformity, we have all at some point in our growing career pulled one absolutely perfect long carrot or parsnip or even two of those kinds of vegetables. When however you are looking for six to match each other as closely as possible it means that the small grower may well have to pull all he has grown.
This means in the end that he may well not be able to stage or if he can, what he stages is not of a very high quality. It also means that having pulled all he has some other show somewhere will suffer because he can"t enter as he has no more vegetables. The other aspect is that by dropping the numbers in the dish, not only will the show organisers have more people staging, the quality will be improved all round with each dish being far more uniform.
City of London
A few weeks ago I also attended the City of London show which is held at the prestigious Guild hall and again I was amazed at the numbers specified in the schedule for each dish resulting in very low entries of poor quality.
Of course the RHS themselves are partly to blame for this, show organisers often use the RHS Show Handbook as their guide as to how many vegetables to specify in each dish. I have for a number of years been part of the RHS show handbook committee and at long last the committee have agreed to reduce considerably the number per dish when their new Show handbook appears for the millennium shows.
All show committees want as many people to enter their shows as possible, but specifying large dishes is certainly not the answer. A large amount of vegetables on a dish doesn't makes for a high quality show, indeed it can be the opposite as I have stated above. Show organisers must realise that vegetables are for eating so the most important criteria of all is quality and not quantity. What a joy it is for judges to enter a marquee or a hall that's full of quality exhibits with each dish shining and screaming for the red card.
So come on show organiser, have a look at your show schedules for next year with a view of reducing the quantities per dish so that more and more shows will benefit by having more exhibitors to compete, and more exhibitors competing means that more people will eventually want to see the stunning exhibits and the more people that attend the shows means that their future is secure as well. Why not take a leaf from the NVS Welsh Branch show, every entry in that show would have won at local and County shows, so it must prove the point.