A show with village appeal
Entering the RHS summer fruit and vegetable competition marquee is like walking into a village show. It's modest in size and the exhibits are displayed on white plates arranged on wooden tables. As in most village shows, the same names dominate the winners cards. I was surprised to see that a lot of them were from as far away as Plymouth and Essex, but this is a national competition and rather early in the season for northern growers.
Alongside the plates of beetroots and carrots are handy tips for the aspiring exhibitor. Advice like '..to get good colour in your beetroots, water the row with a solution of 10ml of salt in a gallon of water 2 weeks before harvest' or 'after washing your carrots, wrap them in damp kitchen paper and keep them cool - good colour is worth 3 or 4 points', could make all the difference.
The fruit exhibits impressed me most - it was painful looking at huge, luscious black cherries 'Summer Sun' and not being able to taste them. I've never tried the strange looking 'doughnut' peaches, but was assured they are very sweet, have white flesh and a very small stone, 'Saturn' was the variety on show. One allotment society from Yealmhampton near Plymouth had a fantastic display that included a pineapple!
Very helpful fruit enthusiasts from the Northern Fruit Group (www.northernfruitgroup.com ) are on hand to give advice and answer questions. I found out how to prune a reluctant gooseberry and Clifford from Fruitscape told me there was no excuse for not growing lots of fruit in my small London garden.