Undone by kinky beans

This is the Hinckley Times article that  came out of my village show blog posts – published there on 5 September 2013…

After all the hype, build-up and preparation, last weekend it was finally here… the Earl Shilton Town Show was upon us. Up bright and early on Saturday morning I shot off down the garden – still in my pyjamas – to harvest my award-winning veggies.

The runner beans were whipped off the plants, the spuds and onions came out of hiding from the shed, and I also picked my biggest marrow, a couple of courgettes, a couple of tomatoes and a mahoosive cucumber that I’ve grown.

I soon found that finding four identical beans was going to be pretty tricky. Laying them out in size order, I discovered that some were too curly, some were odd shapes, and some perfect, but a bit kinky. I straightened them out best I could, and selected the most likely candidates. I then weighed my spuds and picked the four that were most uniform.

Runner beans at the show

Runner beans at the show

I was also entering the 5 a day category – an arrangement of five different fruits and vegetables – so into a basket went my marrow, cucumber, yellow courgettes, onions and a couple of beef tomatoes – I was after a colour explosion.

Off I went to the hall to display my entries, and realising there were some pristine specimens already there, I discovered the competition would be stiff. Returning a couple of hours later after judging had taken place, I eagerly scanned the tables for the results. And do you know what? Instead of the fistful of winning tickets I’d envisaged, my entries had won nothing. Yes! NOTHING at all!

This vegetable show malarkey is obviously a tad more technical than I’d thought, but I had an interesting chat with a chap there who let me in on a few trade secrets. Runner beans and tomatoes should be picked on the day of the show: they can tell if they’re not. There were a good few bean entries, so I wasn’t too disappointed about that one. A closer look at my spuds revealed a miniscule grub hole in the back of one, which obviously hadn’t escaped the scrutiny of the eagle-eyed judge.

5 a day display at the village vegetable show

5 a day display at the village vegetable show

My 5 a day basket – which I thought was my trump card – didn’t win because the entries were judged on how balanced a diet they were (on reflection I had too many curcubits) – and get this – they also looked at the vitamin and mineral content in there!

Oh well. There’s always next year, and as they say, “it’s the taking part that counts”.

Although, I didn’t come away from the show entirely empty handed. After my article a couple of weeks ago, bemoaning my Cabbage White invasion, a very kind man gave me a present. A sachet of organic, natural caterpillar killer that you mix with water and spray on the plants. The caterpillars eat the leaves, and apparently die shortly after – not harming any beneficial insects in the process. As my greenhouse is currently being eaten alive, it was a gift very gratefully received.

The Hinckley Times 5 September 2013

The Hinckley Times 5 September 2013


Vegetable show tomorrow

Well, after a full on grow your own summer, the village show is upon us. It’s tomorrow, folks, and I’ve entered and got my stickers for six categories. My uncles used to show leeks in the North East, but it’s only the second one I’ve entered… and I have to say I’m a tad excited about the whole thing!

I’m going for:

Longest runner bean (in good condition)
I’d earmarked my first born beans for this prestigious award, but although they grew long and straight, the pods have now dried out and the beans inside will be seeds for next year. Not to worry though, I have a couple of fine contenders on the ‘White Lady’ plant which I’ll whip off and measure in the morning.

Four runner beans
We’ve been pretty bean-less at the dinner table of late, as I’ve saved all I can on the plant. I’ll pick them tomorrow, and pick out the four best ones of the same length and look. I may well weigh them all too – you can’t be too cautious about these things. If there was a category for ‘curliest runner bean  or ‘runner bean that’s skinny one end and fat at the other‘, I’d have a few winners for sure.

Four potatoes
Three plants came up in the week, and I sorted them all out into size order. I’ve currently got two sets of four – no harm in having some stunt doubles to hand – under some paper in the shed. I’m aiming to dry out the skins slightly before cleaning them, in the hope that the skins will stick to the spuds and not come off in my hands.

5 a day
An arrangement of five kinds of vegetables you’ve grown. Not really sure about this one to be honest. The plan is to rustle off down the garden first thing, harvest anything that looks half decent, and plonk it in an arrangement arrange it artistically and beautifully.

Cross stitch picture
I’m actually entering this twice with the samplers I did long ago for my two babies. Well, one was actually only finished a couple of years ago (13 years after the grand event) as it sort of got put in a cupboard and forgotten about.

Cross stitch samplers

Cross stitch samplers

So there we are – six entries at 20p each, with a potential of winning £3 forfirst prize, £2 for second and £1 for third. So we could be having a takeaway tomorrow night. Or we could be having non-winning beans on toast.

Wish me luck!

Gearing up for the village veg show

How exciting – The category list for the Earl Shilton Vegetable, Flower and Produce show on 4 August plopped through my door this week – I’d better look after my plants and grow some good stuff!

As a child I had two uncles who lived in the North East, and for them, the local vegetable show was the highlight of the year. Both of them had turned their entire back gardens into prize leek factories, save for an area just big enough for a couple of deck chairs outside the back door.

I recall one uncle did it all by the book, with pristine row upon row of leeks, which he fed and watered diligently.

The other, being mildly more competitive, devised weird and wonderful inventions and contraptions to ensure that his leeks would scoop the grand prize and glory. One of these involved a tank in the garden which was rigged up to the plumbing system and filled up gradually with each flush of the toilet. You get the picture – it was quite stinky to say the least. The contents were then fed down a length of drain straight to the root of each leek. It probably produced massive vegetables, but knowing their history I wouldn’t fancy them on the side of my Sunday roast.

Anyway, scanning down the list, there are a good few categories I can enter, if indeed I manage to keep my crops alive and well for that long. Each entry is only 20p and First Prize is worth a whopping £3 – so a chip supper may well be on the cards for after.

I entered my blackberry jam in the last show, and it actually waltzed off with the third prize. Not an experienced jam-maker, mine was in an odd collection of recycled jars. Whilst collecting my winnings, the judge kindly offered me some feedback, along the lines of, “great jam, rubbish container”. If I enter again, I’ll try to make sure it looks as good as it tastes.

I learned that presentation was key in the vegetable category too. There I was, arranging my runner beans on a paper plate, only to find they were right next to a pristine display of immaculate beans on a backdrop of black card.

In the vegetable section, I can enter everything from onions to beetroot, and from potatoes to radish. I must check if ‘6 peas’ means six individual peas rolling around on a plate or six pea pods. I don’t want to miss out on a technicality.

There are also categories for flowers, home produce and crafts, and there’s even a section for children to enter their wares. The show should prove to be a cracking day out, as it falls on the same day as ‘Shilton by the Sea’.

If you’ve not got a produce list, contact the Earl Shilton Town Clerk: clerk@earlshilton-tc.gov.uk or call in to the Earl Shilton Town Council office on Wood Street.


This appeared in the Hinckley Times on 19 April: