Small Onions + Revised Judges Guide
7th Mar 2002
Last week I mentioned the growing of small onions for the very popular class of under 250 grams or the old under 8 ounces as it used to be called. Even though I shall be growing well over a hundred plants this year, all F1 hybrid, I shall still be finding it very difficult to get a matching set of five that are more alike than even peas in a pod. From over a hundred onions I shall inevitably have around twenty to select from, some will have a higher shoulder than others whilst some will have a flatter bottom and so on.
Even though these onions are well bred and are all F1 hybrids the shape undoubtedly does vary, in an attempt to get even more uniform bulbs I have this year conducted an experiment on the same lines as we grow our exhibition leeks. I had kept a few of the best and most uniform globe shaped bulbs of Tasco, these were re planted in six inch pots during early January in Levington M3 compost.
They were initially placed inside my growing cabinet where I have bottom heat at over 70°F and two lamps above. The bottom heat is very essential if you are to get the onions to produce a strong root system. Within a few weeks the roots were visible at the bottom of the pot as well as some green tops appearing. After a further two weeks or so, still underneath the lamps, the now vigorous onions were removed and placed on the adjoining bench at a minimum greenhouse temperature of 55°F.
This week they will be potted on into a 9 inch pot with a 50 / 50 mix of Levington M3 and soil and still kept on the greenhouse bench. After I have planted my large exhibition onions in the polytunnel, they will be planted as well at the far end of the tunnel together with my large onions for seed production. I know of course that producing seed from an F1 hybrid onion would be a waste of time as the resulting seed could be a Heinz 57 mixture. The parentage of any of the bulbs are obviously known only to the breeder so that exercise would be waste of time.
After having a chat with Dr Peter Dawson, the breeder of many top vegetable varieties including Gladiator and my own new celery hybrids, I decide to go ahead with this experiment on the chance that the bulbs will produce bulbils. The onions were not bred by Dr Dawson so he is not sure whether or not these bulbs have the capability of producing bulbils. The idea is to allow them, just as I do with leeks, to produce a flower head and once the flowers have opened they will all be removed with a scissors in the hope that this shock to the plant will make it produce bulbils or pips or any vegetative material.
Time alone will tell if this has been a success or not so I shall keep you informed. One thing is certain, if they do produce bulbils or pips then there is a much better chance of every resulting bulb that I would grow on to be exactly the same as the parent. This way I would be able to have many more onions for my final selection. Taking this a stage further, if these few onions do produce vegetative material, then in theory, I could re plant these onions year in year out and hopefully produce finer shaped bulbs indefinitely; watch this space!
The National Vegetable Society conducted a review of their judges guide last year which was first introduced During September 1997. The main changes have now been completed and all exhibitors, judges and potential stewards as well as show secretaries should be aware of these changes. The biggest change is with the following, Carrots Stump Rooted, as they are called in the NVS book have now been reduced to 18 points in line with the pointing in the RHS Show Handbook. The NVS pointing originally was as follows : Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 4, Size 3, Colour 3; a total of 20 points. The new pointing is : Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 2, Size 3, Colour 4; a total of 18 points. It now means that 'Colour' is very important as it has actually gone up by one point whilst 'Shape" has lost 2 points and ‘Condition' 1 point.
Tomatoes have also been down pointed from 20 to 18 as follows, originally the pointing was - Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 4, Size 3, Colour 4; a total of 20 points. The new pointing system will be - Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 3, Colour 3; a total of 18 points. Condition is therefore paramount as it should be, the points have been taken off ‘Shape" and ‘Colour'.
Another change, and long overdue in my personal opinion, is the pointing of Pickling Shallots, these have also been brought into line with the RHS and the size has now been increased form 24mm to 30mm. This makes much more sense as in practical terms, if you skinned the 24 mm shallot to actually make pickles, there wouldn't be hardly anything left to eat!
Those of you with a copy of the current Judges Guide can buy all the changes in page format so that the old pages can be removed and replaced with the newer ones at much reduced cost. If anyone is interested in buying the Guide or Amendments, please contact the NVS Secretary, Mr Len Cox, 33 Newmarket Road, Redcar, Cleveland, TS 10 2HY. A Guide with the amendments included costs £4.50 including P&P and the Amendments on their own should be available for under a Pound.