Exhibition tips for homegrown carrots
The type of carrot you exhibit depends to a large extent on the show date. For early shows, in mid to late spring, select quick-maturing varieties. These do best when sown on a hot bed in a cold frame in mid-winter. Fresh manure or partially-rotted garden, to which an activator has been added, will provide the heat necessary to get the carrots growing. The fermenting material should be covered with 15 cm (6”) of fine sifted .
For early or mid-summer shows, you can sow one of the larger varieties of carrots in late winter or early spring. If the weather is not unseasonably cold, a hot bed will not be necessary, although cold frame protection is still beneficial. Make sure the soil is absolutely first class, sandy loam; otherwise; prepare boreholes with a crowbar 45 cm (18”) deep and 30 cm (1’) apart in all directions. These boreholes should be filled with sifted old hot bed soil or fine topsoil mixed with sand. You can also show short quick-growing carrots at mid-summer exhibitions.
As long as you have thinned them to 10 cm (4”) apart in the early stages of growth, you should be able to select good specimens from your garden without any additional work being needed.
For late summer shows, sow in mid-spring and again in late spring, in the open ground. If your soil is badly drained, and you are still determined to produce prize-winning carrots, grow them above ground in large clay drainpipes filled with good sandy compost. Barrels are also suitable. Remember, though, that containerized soil dries out much more quickly than ground soil. The water supply must be consistant; if the soil dries out and then is thoroughly drenched, the roots will split.
Carrots grown for late shows benefit from a bit of shade, perhaps given by neighbouring plants; shaded soil tends to conserve moisture. Carrots, particularly those grown in boreholes, sometimes grow up out of the ground, and the exposed shoulders then turn green or become otherwise disfigured. As soon as you see them beginning to push out of the ground, gently draw soil up around the carrots to cover them, and repeat as necessary. Leave the carrots in the ground until as near as possible to the show date. The one exception is if prolonged rain threatens. To avoid having the carrots split from excess water, lift and store them in moist sand until the show.
Although you can pull carrots out of the ground by their leaves, the skin will be marred in the process. Dark vertical scratches will appear from the friction between the carrot and soil particles. If the ground is soft, it may be all right to pull out the quick-growing, small varieties, but the intermediate and long varieties should be dug out with a spade. Dig carefully until you have completely exposed one side of the carrot, from the surface of the soil down to the tip of the root, and gently lever it out.
Have plenty of wet sacking nearby to wrap around the newly dug carrots; they should never be allowed to dry out. Wash them fairly quickly at this stage with cold water and a sponge; carrots which have split or otherwise damaged roots will then be exposed and can be discarded for show use, although they will probably be perfectly all right for cooking. At this stage reject any carrots which are pale or weak in colour and those which have green or otherwise disfigured shoulders. Asymmetrical or bulgy carrots should also be rejected for the show bench. After this preliminary selection has been made, cut off the fine, fibrous roots as close as possible to the main roots with a sharp knife.
If you are packing the carrots to take to the show, remember that much damage can be done if the roots are packed too loosely and can roll against each other in the packing box. Give the carrots a final wash, again with water and a sponge. Never scrub the carrots or you will damage the skin, and never oil them. They should be packed dry, each carrot wrapped in tissue paper, with the foliage cut back to 2.5 cm (1”) from the carrot top. Then wedge the roots tightly into the box, the widest part of one carrot adjacent to the narrow root of the next. Although it may vary from show to show, the carrots are usually divided into two categories: long pointed varieties, and all other types. Six is the usual number required for single displays, and ten for collections of vegetables. Carrots look best when displayed in pyramids on a plate and garnished with. To keep the carrots fresh until judging, spray them with a fine mist of water. The judges will look for well-shaped carrots, as uniform as possible, with clear, bright colour. The texture should be firm, and the flesh tender and juicy.