Leeks that look like palm trees, massive onions and swedes as big as your head – nothing is as it should be in this English country garden.
Champion grower Joe Atherton has spent all year cultivating his crop of bumper vegetables in the hope of breaking world records with his giant crop.
‘You never know what you are going to dig up half the time so there’s definitely an element of surprise to it,’ explained the 56-year-old from Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire.
Competitive: This weekend growers like Joe (pictured) will congregate for the UK Giant Vegetable Championship in Shepton Mallet. Here, vegetables will go head to head to decide who takes home the trophy.
‘Normal vegetable shows are determined by a judge, however, at our shows the only thing that determines what’s best is the weight.
‘The scales is our judge and as long as the vegetables are sound, there’s no argument.’ The father-of-three currently holds the world record for the longest carrot, which he grew in 2007 measuring an eye-watering 19ft 2ins.
And in 2001 Joe briefly held the world record for the heaviest leek with a 6.6kg monster. He said: ‘The following year someone grew a bigger one and I’ve not been able to get it back. I’d love to get that title back though.
Swede dreams are made of these: Lucy with another giant veg the size of a man’s head
Lucy Skinner, 11, holds a normal sized leek for scale with a one of Joe Atherton’s giant leeks. In 2001 Joe briefly held the world record for the heaviest leek with a 6.6kg monster.
Champion grower Joe Atherton has spent all year growing his giant vegetables in his greenhouse in Nottinghamshire
‘I’ve been growing for size for 15 years. One year I entered seven competitions and won seven.’ Despite his years of dedication to his craft Joe said his secret weapon is his wife Carmel.
‘You wouldn’t be able to do this without a good wife behind you,’ he said.
‘Carmel spent about seven hours this morning cleaning my vegetables for me in preparation for a show.’ This weekend growers from all over the country will congregate for the UK Giant Vegetable Championship in Shepton Mallet.
Here, vegetables which have been hidden underground all year go head to head to decided who takes home the trophy.
Cabbage patch kid: Five-year-old Jamie Courtney-Fortey from Wales poses with a Cornish giant cabbage at The National Gardening Show in Bath
Weighty meal: The giant cabbage tips the scales at 33.4kgs
But despite the blood, sweat and tears which each growers puts into producing their potential winners, Joe said the atmosphere at the shows is good-natured.
‘When we get together at the annual shows it’s like a family get together,’ he said.
‘People come from all over; Cornwall, Wales, Newcastle so it’s the one time we get to see each other.
‘We speak to each other through the year. Some people have online diaries and websites.
‘There’s no animosity, it’s a very friendly community of growers who swap tips and seeds.
‘It doesn’t matter if you give someone gives you some seeds because you still have to grow them yourself.’ Joe’s leeks started off life in a greenhouse last November before being moved outside into raised beds in April.
Source: Daily Mail – The Land of the Giant Vegetables: Inside the Greenhouse that is Home to Monster Onions and Swedes as Big as a Man’s Head