Oh Gourd…. the Horror of Irregular Vegetables

Wonky carrots, undersized parsnips, revolting bolting leeks have all occurred in my vegetable patch this year along with flolloping lolloping sprouts and an epic failure to produce any peas*

You may have noticed a lack of photographic evidence that we even have a vegetable patch, and those more observant regular visitors to the blog may also have wondered vaguely if we actually have a garden as there has never been a picture posted of that either. Well for those more curious amongst you we do indeed have a garden and a veg patch at home, however both suffer from “cobblers children syndrome”. In much the same way as a cobblers children are rarely shod this Designer hasn’t actually found the time to design their own garden and so it is a place for trialling new plants, trying different combinations in an ad hoc wild and oft times weedy fashion.

So why am I telling you this you may wonder, especially as I rarely write wordy posts being time poor with no aspirations to be a writer, but sometimes when I have been thinking about something for a good long while I feel perhaps it may be time to try and put my thoughts down.

Well as I was realising that my butternut squash had again failed to measure up to those available in the supermarket I thought more about supermarkets, the fashion industry and my wordless wednesday pics and the unrelenting pursuit of perfection. Here I was feeling slightly miffed at my own inability to grow a decent sized gourd when supermarkets are full of perfect veg and I’ve always been miffed about skinny girls and chemically enhanced chaps in magazines making people feel thoroughly inadequate about themselves. It suddenly struck me that in only posting those rare snapshots in time when something in the garden it as its peak and cropping out the weeds in the background I am just as guilty of pimping perfection.

Feelings of inadequacy
Feelings of inadequacy

Now that’s not to say that I am suddenly going to start posting pics of my weedy veg patch but it did make me think more about vegetables in general. The amount of fruit and veg wasted because it is judged to be the wrong size or shape is quite horrific, I’m not sure that any supermarket has ever enquired as to my personal preference for a parsnip or potato. If any supermarket is interested I prefer a range of sizes within a batch of carrots, small for stock, med for roast and larger for adding to a spag bol. Saying that this is consumer led is, I feel, only part of the story. I think the uniformity of vegetables is more to do with the mechanisation of production than the pursuit of perfection and the profit margins of producer and retailer, which is why they’re in business after all. Let’s be honest with ourselves if as consumers we demand different sized or shaped veg and are prepared to part with our hard earned cash you can be sure a retailer will supply it and farmer will grow it. So with this in mind I’m going to cut myself some slack and delight in the full range of my own slightly inadequate squash and ask my local supermarket for wonky veg or buy it from an independent greengrocer.

Honey Bear, Queensland Blue, Waltham Butternut, and Hunter
Honey Bear, Queensland Blue, Waltham Butternut, and Hunter in various shapes and sizes

*the peas failed only because I failed to remember to sow them.

Of Cabbages and Kings – Malvern Autumn Show

For several years now I have gone to the Autumn Show with a particular friend. I hope she wont mind me saying this but she would not, nor is she ever likely to describe herself as a gardener (although I have been trying to indoctrinate her for years). This two day event set at the foot of the Malvern Hills, is for us, absolutely perfect. Enough of everything to keep us both happy. Even the weather, which this year has been to put not to0 fine a point on it, rubbish, unless of course you are a mollusc or a bog plant, was perfect this year.

First stop for us is always the Harvest Pavilion, the giant vegetables always make us smile and I love the attention to detail in the displays. I know that this pavilion never fails to amaze, delight and amuse. It is however a very serious business, as you can tell from the faces of those judging.

Having exhibited in the Harvest Pavilion I have experienced the trials and tribulations of trying to achieve perfection. This year has been a difficult one, seeing gardeners dealing with the vagaries of the British weather and yet once again faultless flowers, fruit and vegetables abounded.

The National Vegetable Society, National Championships had a Jubilee and Olympic theme. The Midlands Branch came in first with their display, which featured a fiery looking chili torch.

The Welsh contingent was much more traditional in its arrangement and I particularly liked their fine display of multicoloured carrots and Kiwano (Horned Melon), which is something I haven’t seen before.

Keeping with the Jubilee theme the Scottish Branch displayed an array of baby vegetables on a cupcake stand with both of us being most impressed by the small but perfectly formed Cauliflower.

One thing I noticed this year was the different way of styling ones leeks. I wonder if perhaps some inspiration had come from the “World Beard and Moustache Championships”

“The Little Mi”
“The Freeform”
“The Standing to Attention”

Although very impressive this years giants seemed a little thin on the ground and I cant recall seeing any of the giant swedes so reminiscent of alien lifeforms.

The Show gardens at the Autumn Show are smaller and less numerous than the Spring Show. There is a shorter time available for the build but they rarely fail to deliver on attention to detail and good design. The one difference, I would suggest, is that this Show has a more relaxed feel with some of the gardens displaying a sense of fun and whimsy not always seen in the spring.

A La Mode Dining – Best in Show
“Dig for Victory” – featuring an Anderson Shelter covered with vegetables
Colourful display in – “Discovering Brassicas!”

Happily for those building show gardens they are housed undercover in the Good Life Pavilion Theatre. Throughout the day there were a full programme of demonstrations. Unfortunately we arrived too late to watch Jean-Christophe Novelli but we did catch Mark Diacono demonstrate the tongue tingly transforming nature of Szechuan pepper in cocktails and also demonstrate how to make the perfect Mojito with local mint and cider.

Fortified we then spent the rest of the day taking in the sights, tasting local delights and generally having a lovely time.