16 Oct 2013

Behold the Giant Pumpkin

There are days when everything seems to fall into place nicely. Last Tuesday, for example, a window of opportunity opened up in my working schedule enabling me to get to the giant veg show that is the RHS London Harvest Festival in Westminster. Even better, the sun was shining and very warm which was welcome during the 10 minute walk from the underground to the RHS halls. I went via Pimlico, my old stomping ground so I know the streets well; it's always nice to stroll through quiet tree lined streets in good weather.

Giant pumpkins
Prize winning giant pumpkins - the red rosette denotes First Prize.

Despite being an avid grower of veg, I have to admit I've never been to a proper horticultural show before. I can only describe the sight of those first giant pumpkins as I entered as A Thrilling Moment. They were undoubtedly the show stoppers although a wide-eyed wander round had me amazed at leeks the size of my arm, onions as big as cauliflowers, cabbages like footballs and yard long carrots. You're going to need a very big bunny to eat those. I imagine judging must be done to very strict criteria and with a very keen eye as I could only see perfection on a grand scale all around. Entrants have to submit a minimum number of each vegetable so I guess the expertise is in raising several prize specimens.

Amazing giant veg

Giant show vegetables is not a level of horticulture that I'd aspire to, I'm quite content if I get a reasonable haul of edibles each season, but I did give the apple table a more than cursory glance. I'm not one to boast (ahem), but some of my Braeburn apples this year have been huge, beautiful and very crisp and juicy! More by nature than nurture, admittedly, but who knows, in future years perhaps? To be validated by RHS commendation must be quite something!

Harvest collage

I assume that giant vegetables are fairly inedible (please tell me if you know otherwise) but this kind of showmanship is something that the RHS does very well. In the veg growing world, this is the equivalent of London Fashion Week and is to the allotment grower what Vivienne Westwood is to Primark - inspiring to look at but not necessarily what we'd want for every day!

Nevertheless, it was a totally brilliant day out - something I'd recommend every veg grower to attend at least once - and it certainly impressed the toddler that I took with me ... although I suspect she was waiting for the pumpkins to turn into Cinderella's coach.

First prize pumpkin

There was a handful of traders at the show doing brisk business and I met the lovely Joy at Sea Spring Seeds who gave me some invaluable advice about growing chillis. More on that in another post.

31 comments:

  1. It must take something bordering on an obsessive personality to produce a vegetable so perfect, never mind THREE so perfect. I don't think I'd have the patience. But you do have to admire the results. Those pumpkins are awesome.
    I don't suppose any of the growers knows what it is to live with mice.

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    1. Ha! I expect you're right about the mice, Rusty Duck! Or else they have a cunning plan to thwart them. I was reminded of Wallace and Gromit's Anti-pesto patrols when I read your comment! I realise now why growers of giant veg are so protective of them, it must take a lot of work!

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    1. The pumpkins were causing me to have a real Alice in Wonderland moment, Tanya! Huge!! (How do they get them to the show, I wonder?)

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  3. Like you were until now, I am a "Veg Show Virgin", but I'd like to attend one if the chance arose. Those massive pumpkins are almost beyond belief! There are several members of the UK Veg Gerdeners forum who do "Growing for Showing" stuff, but I must admit it is not my thing. I prefer smaller (and taster?) veg that is less trouble to grow.

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    1. I definitely prefer quality over quantity, Mark and I found it incredible that onions, etc, could be grown that large. Most impressive though was the perfection of those brassicas - the growers must be slug warriors, always on the alert for a nibbling mollusc! It would be way beyond my dedication to the veg and really very awe-inspiring!

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  4. I can admire show vegetables but wouldn't want to grow them, Those large pumpkins remind me of the 'Belly's going to get you' ad on TV. Can't for the life of me remember what it advertised it just made my skin crawl!

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    1. No, me neither, Sue - I'm quite happy with normal sized veg! I had to google "The belly's going to get you" and now I see what you mean!! Very similar - these pumpkins would have taken you right back there if you'd seen them "in the flesh"!!

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  5. It sounds a wonderful day out, those pumpkins are huge!

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    1. It was such fun - made even better by going with a small child! It's certainly something worth seeing at least once! (And as I'm a member of the RHS, it cost me nothing to go in!)

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  6. I know what you mean about imagining the giant vegetables are not great eating, but I do remember Medwyn Williams (who has about 11 Chelsea gold medals) saying in an interview that his veg taste good too, otherwise there's no point growing them. The show looks great. Giant pumpkins are just the sort of thing that children adore. A good way to get them growing I think. Boys especially do love a competition! Fantastic photos Caro, glad you had an enjoyable time.

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    1. Great comment CJ - and thanks for flagging up Medwyn Williams! I hadn't heard of him before but, thanks to you, have discovered his prolific expertise in this area. Wonderful - and good to know that he has an online seed business. An exhibitor gave us a giant carrot which I hope the toddler's mum will use in cooking. I must ask her how it tasted!

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  7. Had seen photos of those giant pumpkins in the papers Caro but your photo complete with toddler is really a perfect illustration of just how ginormous they are. Glad that the day was gentle and allowed you to feast on these products with your eyes :)

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    1. I rarely have time to read the papers, Anna, so missed the photo in the news. Seeing such huge perfect veg was just amazing and made me feel very childlike! It was a lovely day out, I felt that I came away having experienced something a bit different. Perfect!

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  8. It's hard to believe they really are pumpkins as they're so many times bigger than one I'd grow! Glad you had a good day out.

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    1. There were a couple of very large orange pumpkins, the sort that we'd instantly recognise, but these were very alien in shape! They were so huge that they were a bit ugly, really!

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  9. Amazing, the dedication needed to grow such huge veg! Those pumpkins are massive, I wonder what they do with them after the show?

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    1. A good thought, Pauline! I hope that the pumpkins aren't just abandoned. Even donating them to a school for Hallowe'en would just be passing the problem on! Perhaps they make a lot of soup and pumpkin pie?

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  10. I wouldn't fancy carving one of those for Halloween. They have a similar event at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, it's amazing how big they can get some vegetables to grow. It was the leeks which really made an impression on me, absolutely huge.

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    1. I've seen pumpkins this size carved for the Fortnum's annual pumpkin carving competition, usually as creatures from "Where the Wild Things Are" - however, I've never seen one hollowed out!! I bet it would make your arms ache doing that job! I know what you mean about the leeks - I felt the same about the onions!! These shows are wonderful, they give growers a chance to show off their prowess and provide a spectacle for the rest of us!

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  11. I'm not keen on giant vegetables, but have to say that there is a certain fascination about them. And as for all the time and effort expended on them... I agree with Mark about growing smaller and tastier ones. Flighty xx

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    1. While I enjoy the show at the end of the season, I wouldn't want to grow veg this big - I'm in too much of a hurry to enjoy my harvests! CJ's comment about Medwyn Williams was very interesting - I've now read that he had access to cold and heated greenhouses and a coldstore in order to prepare his veg for showing. Those are not facilities which I'm every likely to have!

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  12. Ugh - those pumpkins are repulsive - like something from an alien movie. I didn't realise how big they were till you put the photo of the little girl beside them - you have to admire the growers who produce such perfect vegetables

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    1. Haha! They ARE very alien, Elaine - or like Jabba the Hut from Star Wars! But I expect their growers are still very fond of them! It's hard to show the scale of the beasts unless someone is standing next to them and she was suitably amazed by their size!

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  13. Some good looking veg there, I'm with you though, all I want is a reasonable yield. Sounds a real fun day though and I love the pic of the kid at the end....priceless.xxxx

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    1. Oh the veg were all absolutely perfect but I felt like I'd fallen into a giant's larder! If you think the picture of toddler and pumpkin is priceless, you should have seen her with the giant carrot she was given - it was taller than her! Thanks for your comments - made me smile! xx

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  14. OH MY GOWD! The pumpkins are massive!!! How fantastic! I don't think I could get into show veg either, my mum's been entering veg for the last 2 years into her little village show and the stress she goes through is unbelievable! They all take it very seriously. Those pumpkins are just fab though. I went to the Harrogate show a few years back and was stunned by how perfect the veg was. I find it all very amusing and very enjoyable :)

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    1. I quite agree, Anna! I'm all for stress free gardening - I couldn't be doing with nurturing plants and then finding little nibbles in my prize specimens!! I admire your mum for having a go, it does give the rest of us less aspirational gardeners something to gawp at and admire! I went to a local show at Highgate during the summer and I did sneakily think that my cherries could have been entered! ;) xx

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  15. Actually, one of my dream is visiting this festival to see so many giant vegetables. I knew the information about this festival from a magazine twenty years ago, when I was in senior high school. I hope someday I can visit and learn more about gardening. Thank you for sharing

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    1. Endah, you've made me realise how lucky I am to be able to easily get to these shows and to have the RHS magazine delivered through my door regularly. Your determination to create a food garden is equally as inspirational as the gardeners who grow for showing. Thanks for popping by and commenting!

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  16. looks like a great day. I saw someone else tweet out pictures of those monstrous pumpkins. They look like sumo wrestlers. I haven't had a chance to get to any autumn shows this year which is a pity. I love seeing all the produce laid out in celebration.

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Caro x

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