When we went to the Dorset County Show, we went to the national championships and AGM of the NVS. A lot of people get confused about these shows. The idea isn’t to grow giant vegetables, but to grow perfect specimens. Of course, they end up somewhat larger than the vegetables we harvest from our allotment but size isn’t everything by any means.
For example, with leeks the Judges Guide states “Firm, solid barrels with no sign of softness or splits, foliage turgid, pest and disease free.” The only reference to size is that Blanch Leeks must be over 350mm and Intermediate leeks above 150mm but no more than 350mm.
Usually the show schedules state things like 3 of a kind or 5 examples so one of the big challenges for the show grower is to find 3 good examples as nearly identical as possible.
The judges use a point system to score the vegetable and this is quite revealing. For leeks again, it runs
- Condition 6 points
- Uniformity 4 points
- Shape 3 points
- Size 5 points
- Colour 2 points
All of which gives a maximum potential of 20 points. As you can see, 3 smaller leeks can easily win over 3 large leeks if they meet the other criteria. Size helps but it’s not the only thing that matters.
Moving from the NVS tent to the general Dorset show tent, I felt a bit sorry for the entrants on vegetables. Even the first prize next door wouldn’t have had a look in at the NVS tent. Still, one thing we did notice was some people were the only entrant in a class. You can hardly fail to get a red card (first prize always gets a red card) when you’re the only competitor!
One idea I think a lot of shows could take on though was the children’s exhibits of sculptures made from vegetables. Not only would it encourage the kids to get involved, they were great fun.