Christmas is about tradition for many people and one of ours is digging the Christmas parsnips. Despite talk of the flavour improving after frosts, we tend to find that ours don’t like the fairly wet autumns that we’ve experienced recently. The roots are at their best in the early autumn and when winter sneaks up, they have tended to start to develop some canker. This soon peels off and given the size of the roots, there will be plenty left for roasting.
The giant pumpkin may not have been that giant, but we’ve had rather more success with giant tomatoes. the cultivar that we’ve been trying is Gigantomo.
It became apparent quite early in the year that there was a good deal of promise and we had to support the larger fruit (using old seed potato bags).
By the time that the fruit had ripened we had experienced a bit of splitting, so that they weren’t the most aesthetic of specimens, but they were big. Early contenders started to weigh in at over a pound (almost 600 and 800 grammes), but the biggest managed to tip the scales at just over 2lb
Most importantly the fruit were delicious. “Gertie” made a marvellous meal sliced with Mozarella, olive oil and our own basil and served up with crusty bread.
We’ve been trying to grow a giant pumpkin this year, but think that we’re going to have to concede that “Shrimpy” isn’t going to be a record breaker. the plant took off quite nicely and we tried to trim off the side shoots and early flowers to focus the plant’s energy. It was looking promising in July when we selected our first fruit at the tip of the plant.
Unfortunately the first fruit that we selected didn’t develop properly and had to be removed after a couple of weeks meaning that we had to wait for another one to be set (we’d been assiduously removing any competitors before this).
Within another six weeks the plant had shot on and the next fruit had started to develop.
It had developed nicely, and we had to slide a builder’s bag underneath it to help us harvest it, but it was too late in the season for it to become a real giant.
At just over 20 kg (50lb) it was big enough to make a lot of soup, but was no show stopper. Better luck next year!
So it turns out that 19th August was wet, and therefore the big day was delayed until 21st August. Show date is 17th September so this gives me less that four weeks to get the onions ready for showing… in hindsight I think I should have lifted them sooner, but they seemed to be growing on so well it would have been a shame. Lifting from the well cultivated soil and top layer of well rotted manure as mulch was easy and required only a hand fork. I trimmed off most of the leaves, leaving about 10cm to handle the bulbs with. I also roughly trimmed off the roots from the base plate at this stage. I wrapped the onions in tea towels and brought them indoors to tidy up.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a complete newbie to this and I found this video really helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CED-qjnJMU
Once indoors I washed, skinned and trimmed the bulbs and then had a good look at them and weighed them to see if I could make up any decent groups for the show.
A few of the onions I lifted had started to split (where the central bulb divides into two), giving rise to odd shapes. My research leads me to believe that this is caused by irregular watering. Mea culpa – I drowned them when it was dry and did not water them when it had rained – a learning point for next time.
My heaviest onion weighed in at 720 grams. It may be small but it is perfectly formed. This is a very poor effort and I’m wondering whether it’s even worth entering it into the class. I don’t want the poor thing to be embarrassed!
I have four onions around 600 grams. Typical luck is that two are almost identical in shape, whereas the other two are distinctly different – one is flatter and squatter, the other is more bulbous on one side that the other.
There are some smaller groups at around 400 grams (both red and white). I’ll see how they ripen up and then make a decision on which three would look best.
I’ve allocated some space in racking in the garage. I’ve put down a thick towel and then a muslin cover to try and prevent them from getting damaged during storage. I’ve also liberally dusted them with talcum powder which apparently helps the skins to dry out. Let’s see how they go.
I know my onions are weedy and insignificant compared to “proper” growers, but even so I’m really pleased with how most of them are looking. To me, they are beautiful. Even if they don’t win, I know that one alone will make a substantial amount of onion jam which will go into family Christmas hampers.
I have “lifting day” pencilled in for 19th August – fingers crossed for a dry day.
After checking the schedule for our village show, it seems there are three categories for onions:
5 onions to pass through 3 inch ring
In hindsight, it would have made sense to check the competition schedule before beginning the whole growing process, but never mind.
By some fluke I realise that one of my pastry cutters is a 3”dia. circle, so at least I have a ready-made measure when the time comes.
The onions are growing on well but I will be way short of the 4lb mark which I believe would be a starting point to contend for heaviest onion [ to put this into context, the world record is currently over 18lb!). The reds are generally smaller than the whites, and because of the earlier “leaning” snag, some of them are not symmetrical. I think finding a matching set could be tricky.
It seems that preparing the onions for show is a whole new game. Typically onions are lifted four weeks before showing to allow sufficient time to develop the lovely even, brown skin. In order to get matching sizes, growers measure the circumference of the best onion when lifted and leave others to grow on until they catch up. I’m not sure I’ve got enough onions to make this work.
There is also the art of cleaning, skinning and trimming, applying talcum powder to aid drying of the skin, where to leave them to brown off, what to put them on when they are drying, softening the neck and tying raffia around it to RHS standard. Oh my word, this is not going to be easy.