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Show us your veg!

Vegetables entered into a show

What a lot of veg!

I’ve lived in Farmborough for 10 years now, but it took me about seven years to enter anything into the annual Flower Show.

Come September, I’d pay my money to enter the hall and be amazed by some of the exhibits, while muttering, “I grew better than that”, at others.

Every year would be the same and every year I’d promise that next year I would enter something…

Three courgettes that have won first prize in a show

First prize courgettes!

Then, in 2008, my neighbour Jeannette and I made a deal to put a few things into the show. I had some potatoes and tomatoes and a couple of odd-shaped vegetables, while she had some preserves and some beans amongst other things. We laughed as we got our entries together, discussing the comments we thought the judges would make of our first attempts. I remember saying how they would probably look at my potatoes (the lovely Cara) and say that the eyes were too pink. Oh how we laughed, and so, with no expectation of winning or losing but just having a bit of fun, we entered into the show.

Two very different potato varieties that have won prizes in a show

Prize-winning spuds!

The next day I turned up to the show about an hour after it had opened. My neighbour spotted me immediately and came rushing up with a look of excitement saying, “You’ve won! You’ve won the President’s Cup and no comments about the eyes!”

Eh? What? I’d won?

I was amazed and rather proud with my little Caras and the next year I entered more…and I won more…so I entered more again…and I won more again…and this year I entered even more…and won even more again…

Three different tomato varieties that have all won prizes at a show

Prize-winning tomatoes!

At this point you probably have visions of 3′ carrots and 4′ leeks, with pumpkins the size of dolls houses. However, I don’t grow veg like that and one of the reasons I enter into the show is to prove that you don’t need to grow ridiculous and tasteless varieites of veg to have a go. I grow all my veg without chemicals and in peat-free compost made from post-consumer and household waste. Yet I still win cash prizes, cups and trophies. Why? Because it’s quality and consistency that counts and although my veg may not be big, it’s certainly beautiful, bountiful and above all, edible.

In case you’re wondering what exactly I did enter and how it fared, here’s a list:

Two carrots entwined around each other

Carrots in love...

    • Runner beans
    • Courgettes (First Prize)
    • Marrows
    • Potatoes (Cara: Second Prize and Cecile: Third Prize)
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes (Yellow Cherry: Second Prize, Black Cherry: Third Prize and Red Cherry: Third Prize)
    • Odd-shaped vegetables (‘Carrots in Love’: Second Prize and ‘Family of Carrots’: Third Prize)
An entwined bunch of carrots

A very close family of carrots

  • Sweet Peas
  • Pot plants in bloom (White-flowered orchid: First Prize and the Resident’s Flower Shield, and Purple-flowered orchid: Second Prize)
  • Chicken Eggs
  • Jam
  • Jelly (Hedgerow Jelly with Ginned Sloes and Apples: Second Prize, Cherry-plum Jelly with vanilla: Third Prize, plus Damson Jelly: Highly Commended)
  • Victoria Sandwich
  • Shortbread (First Prize)
  • Photographs (Local Scene: Second and Third Prize, Caption: Third Prize)
Some shortbread which has won a prize in a show

First-prize shortbread!

As you can see, I don’t win with everything I enter and what I do win varies year on year, being very much dependant on the growing season and how much competition there is. In previous years I’ve won back more money than I’ve paid out to enter. This year it cost me a total of £8 to enter and I won £8.10 in prize money – a 10p profit! Woohoo! However, I did gain the honour of being awarded the Resident’s Flower Shield for the second year running, so I’m feeling the right to a little smugness…(I’ll post a picture of the shield and winning entry when it comes back from the engravers.)

Jellies (preserves) that have won various prizes in a show

Prize-winning jellies!

If there’s a show near you this year, or maybe it’s been and gone and you’ve been muttering the same things I used to, stop thinking about it and have a go, because you never know what the outcome will be and above all, it’s a bit of fun!

If you have entered a Flower Show this year or in the past, what prize-winning veg did you grow? Let me know in a comment and don’t forget some pictures too…

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