I partly solved my book problem a couple of weeks ago by joining my local library where I was delighted to find 2 books on my Amazon wishlist. The first was The Biggest Beetroot in the World: Giant Vegetables and the People Who Grow Them by Michael Leapman. I've found this subject most intriguing since seeing them for the first time at Malvern with PatientGardener last September. I've finished the book, so here's my review:
The most frequently asked questions when giant vegetables are displayed are how and why do they do that?
This book explores both these questions in some depth and introduces us to some of the characters (both male and female) who grow some of the largest vegetables in the world. It turns out it can be pretty much a full time occupation with some of the competitors not taking a holiday for years.
It isn't a hobby for reducing your carbon footprint. In order to succeed, vast amounts of heating a lighting during the winter months are needed. Ingenuity is also required, with a variety of structures constructed in which to support and nurture potential veggie champions and perhaps achieve the ultimate goal - a coveted Guinness World record. The competitors are dedicated to their work - always seeking out a vital tweak in their nutrient, compost, timing etc. to eke out that winning ounce or part of an inch to give them an edge over their rivals.
Each show with giant vegetable classes is visited, over the six week window for exhibiting. Some have many classes such as Malvern or Shepton Mallet, others are more specific such as the world onion and leek championship in Ashington. Some of the vegetables are shown at more than one show and the best will also be saved for seed, to hopefully provide the champions and record breakers in future years. Don't think that this eccentricity is confined to Britain, there is a thriving giant vegetable competitiveness in the USA* too and a strategy to wrest the world record giant pumpkin record from there (at over 1,600 lbs) and bring it home to Britain is outlined.
Whilst the subject is covered in great depth by the author, I found its structure a little too repetitive. I found it hard to distinguish between most of the characters - I suspect most of their growing secrets weren't disclosed, thus leaving us with their similarities rather than differences. The descriptions of each of the shows were quite samey too and the passion these growers obviously have for their monster vegetables just didn't come across on the page.
A book that doesn't quite live up to its hype nor the characters which inhabit this eccentric hobby.
As you can guess I won't be buying it to add to my book collection - which means my library strategy is working already - it's saved me some bookshelf space for a little while longer at least :)
* = in Alaska they're so keen on giant vegetables apparently it's not unusual to find kale, cabbage and other veggie items included in the public planting on the streets.
Helen - do you remember these two guys we saw at Malvern and our speculation they might be growers of giant vegetables? Well, the one on the left certainly is - he's Peter Glazebrook, one of the characters followed in the book and was the world record holder for the longest carrot (over 17ft) until just before Malvern 2007.