I have had numerous phone calls over the years from people who want to know which varieties are best to sow for both kitchen use and for the show bench and I have, therefore, put together the ABC of vegetable selection together with sowing dates and the appropriate pointing system that is used by judges(both the RHS points and the NVS will be shown).
Since I have been writing this column (now approaching fifteen years), I have had numerous phone calls over the years from people who want to know which varieties are best to sow for both kitchen use and for the show bench. They are often unsure as well about sowing times as they want to know when they can reasonably expect to harvest their vegetables for a given show. The latter of course is not so easy as many vegetables often mature earlier or later than expectations dpending on weather conditions, Cauliflower and peas are one example of when your sowing dates can go through the window during a hot Summer.
I have therefore put together the ABC of vegetable selection together with sowing dates and the appropriate pointing system that is used by judges( both the RHS points and the NVS will be shown). Some vegetables may not be the normal run of the mill type that you see in most schedules but have been included becasue they may however be utilised as cultivars in the often popular ‘Any other vegetable’ class. Others, such as asparagus, globe and Jerusalem artichokes have not been mentioned as they are not in season when most of the competitive shows are being held.
I must stress that all the varieties and sowing dates are those that have proved to be suitable for my own use here in Anglesey and are timed to be ready for pulling from mid to late August. Further North you may well have to sow earlier and correspondingly further South you may well have to sow later.
A – Asparagus Pea – (the winged pea)A vegetable in my opinion that should be more widely grown as I find them delicious when steamed at around an inch and a half in length; left any longer they become stringy. An ideal plant to grow in a mixed flower border as its small crimson flowers are strikingly beautiful. Sow mid April as it takes time to flower. RHS Points – Condition including Colour 5, Size of pods 4, Uniformity 3. Total 12 points. NVS points – Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Size of pod 4, Colour 2. Total 15 points.
B – Aubergine – Not the easiest of vegetables to grow well but if you can be successful at growing the lovely shiny fruit, then they can be very useful in collections as they are an 18 pointed vegetable. Sow mid February in a warm greenhouse as they need a long growing season. Two varieties that have done well for me are Bandera, light purple fruits with white stripes throuigh them and Bonica. RHS points – Condition 5, Size and shape 5, Colour 4, Uniformity 4. Total 18 points. NVS points – Condition 5, Uniformity 4, Shape 3, Size 3, Colour 3. Total 18 points.
C – Broad Beans – Probably one of the easiest of all the vegetables to grow but the fruits can quickly get old if they are kept on the plants too long before showing them. Sow towards the end of April directly outside. Imperial Green Long Longpod is an excellent variety. RHS points – Condition 5, Size and Shape 4, Colour 3, Uniformity 3. Total 15 points. NVS points – Condition 5, Uniformity 3, Shape 2, Size 3, Colour 2. Total 15 points.
D – Beans Dwarf French and Climbing – Relatively easy to grow and best started off in the greenhouse for Northern areas for planting out when there is no danger from frost. Sow early May for the climbing type and end of May for the Dwarf. The Prince is still a winner on the bench when grown well and the pods harvested young. My Own Selection of the climbing bean is also a winner. RHS points – Condition and Freshness 5, Size and Shape 4, Colour 3, Uniformity 3. Total 15 points. NVS points – Condition 6, Uniformity 3, Shape 2, Size 2 Colour 2. Total 15 points.
E – Beans Runner – Needs well worked deep soil for the best and most tender pods, Sow indoors, one bean in a 4 inch pot and plant out when there is no danger from frost, if planting earlier, some form of protection will be necessary such as fleece or panes of glass.