Thursday, September 23, 2010

A generous helping of vegetables

It's that time of year when farmers try to grow enormous pumpkins. Hiram Watson of Farmington, New Hampshire, is ahead of the game, having already won 2 contests for pumpkins weighing 1,109 and 1,392 lbs. Larry Southern and his friend have several giant pumpkins - including a 954-pounder - still on the vine in Bluefield, West Virginia. Gardeners around the world regularly make news for their colossal produce. Ken Dade from Norfolk, England, grew a world record-breaking marrow (3rd image, held up by Isabella Ng). John Evans of Matanuska Valley, Alaska, chalks up the size of his award-winning artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, mushrooms, Swiss chard, and zucchini to the Alaskan soil and the special compost he uses. "It's wonderful," he says. "You peel one onion and it's enough for a entire week." David Metcalfe of Nelson, Lancashire, England, is rewarded for his giant onions and leeks, which are noted in competition for their condition, size, uniformity, shape, and color. Ivan Kalcina's wife complained about the space his garden was taking up in Collaroy, New South Wales, Australia, until he began harvesting monster radish and tomatoes, “My wife was not happy when I first made the vegetable garden a little bit bigger, she wanted more grass but now she’s happy.” And Jimmy Hill (1st image) of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, has mastered the art and science of raising 5' cabbages, although he is happy to share them with neighbors rather than enter them in competitions.

Sometimes the size of the vegetables is a detriment. Medwyn Williams (2nd image) of Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, Wales, had his van loaded with super-sized onions, marrows, leeks, and carrots when he was ticketed by the traffic police for overloading his vehicle, making it unsafe. Barry Micklethwaite (4th image) of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, was the victim of his own success: he was blacklisted from showing his giant onions, parsnips and beetroot in the area chapter of the National Vegetable Society because he has taken so many prizes over the last 20 years. Micklethwaite says, "They don't want me there because I might be a bit too good. There is no real secret to my success it's all about spending time with the veg and using top quality seed....I enter in quite a few classes so at the average show I might win up to £80 so maybe they think I'm winning too much cash. It's all a bit petty and silly.” But the nurturing of these gigantic vegetables is serious business.

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