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Canny lass

All This Talk About Leek Clubs...

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Prompted by the new book by Paul Mann I've been trying to explain to my Swedish hubby just what a leek club is - or was, do they still exist? My knowledge falls short when it comes to how the entries were judged. I have a vague recollection of some kind of formula involving the length of the white part and the circumfrence of the leek. At the minute he's having difficulty beleiving that leeks can grow to anywhere near the size of those I have described. Can anybody help me out?

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Canny - I can't help you with leek club rules, but I remember my Grandad and Uncle growing and showing back in the 50s & 60s; obviously they'd been at it for decades before that. They weren't Bedlington men but from Backworth/West Allotment and showed through the West Allotment Club ... I suppose there was a standard set of competition rules across the whole area.

It was their growing methods that I found interesting at the time:

Homemade fertilizer - the contents of their potties* tipped into a 45 gallon ex-oil drum which had probably been nicked from the pit, assorted slops added, and left to 'stew'. This brew was then tipped into jam jars set at the base of each plant ... these jars had the bottoms removed to form 'open-ended' tubes but where clearly used as measuring devices. They removed the jam jam bottoms by putting an inch of old engine oil in the jar, plunging a red hot poker into the oil to heat it up, then lowering the jar into cold water; the glass base dropped off due to the 'shock' ... clever boys those old pitmen.

They also tied a roll of newspaper around the base a the leek to keep/extend the white bit - kept the sun off.

Leek seed was guarded with military methods to stop it being nicked by rivals ... they used to camp-out in the garden for weeks while the seed heads ripened on the plants. They also kept guard just prior to the showing season so that rivals couldn't attack the plants.

*their pit row houses had outside netties (for our younger viewers - WCs) so if caught short during the night after a heavy drinking session at the club they just sat on the edge of the bed and did the business on the potty ... yuk!

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Symptons is spot on here with his description of the leek club boys rules and regs but hasn't mentioned that the 45 gallon oil drum was also used by the pigeon men as well If any cats were caught chasing the racing pigeons , there's not a lot of people eat show leeks!!

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Apart from the girlfriends grandad who nicked his mates show leeks for a joke and when he came round to tell him that someone had nicked his leeks he ushered him in and calmed him down with a nice pie that they had just made.

No points for guessing what he was eating.

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My Dad was a member of the Sun Inn Leek Club and grew his leeks in the allotments next to allens field and the park, The soil was mixed with very fine sand and coal ash with no stones that would dig into the leek, and I remember tea leaves being saved for the leeks and following allen the milkmans horse with a shovel and pail to pickup the dung. there was tough competition and rivalry for the leek show prizes which could be quite substantial, lottery tickets were sold in the pubs to finance the show, there may have been graft skimming money off the top but never could prove it!!!!

As for eating the leeks they were great and a potatoe and Leek pie was a favorite.

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Apart from the girlfriends grandad who nicked his mates show leeks for a joke and when he came round to tell him that someone had nicked his leeks he ushered him in and calmed him down with a nice pie that they had just made.

No points for guessing what he was eating.

Also on top of this The Leek Show can also be a pseudonym for strippers at certain clubs in the area.

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I missed the leek show at the Percy in Sept when i visited last, it was on the day i arrived i went down to the pub in the late afternoon and there was a lot of sad looking faces around don't know if it was the booze or the faces of the losers.(serious stuff leek shows)

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Hi guys, thanks for the info!

Symptoms, If I'd known that as a child I don't think I'd have eaten broth after the leek show. That fertiliser must have been a well kept secret. I had no idea!!

Brian, Which kind of leek show was it that you just missed? According to Brettly there are two.

Keith, that's not a bad idea! I'll see what i can do but I'll contact you nearer the time for details so that I don't take him to the wrong type of leek show!

However, he's still driving me nuts with questions about the competitive side of the thing. How do they judge leeks? What qualities and characteristics are they comparing?

I can remember the leek show at the 'tute' in Netherton. I recall that leeks were always displayed in sets of 3, propped up against the backs of the chairs. As far as I remember the size of the leeks in each set was pretty much the same but in some sets the leeks were enormous and in others quite small. However, it wasn't always the biggest that won if my memory serves me right. Could it be that size, in this instance at least, doesn't matter?

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SHOW leek growing has its roots in the region's mining culture.

After a hard day underground, the garden or allotment offered pitmen fresh air, contact with the natural world and produce.

The aim of show growers is to produce a stand of two or three leeks combining size, uniformity and quality.

According to leek historian and grower Bill Rutherford, the first recorded show in the region was in Swarland in Northumberland in 1846, while in Ashington in the 1930s there were around 35 shows.

The science of leek growing has its own body, the National Pot Leek Society, which holds its annual show in the North East.

But many shows have closed, including the big joint Northumberland and County Durham Club and Institute event.

Source -
Journal Live

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Hi guys, thanks for the info!

Symptoms, If I'd known that as a child I don't think I'd have eaten broth after the leek show. That fertiliser must have been a well kept secret. I had no idea!!

Brian, Which kind of leek show was it that you just missed? According to Brettly there are two.

Keith, that's not a bad idea! I'll see what i can do but I'll contact you nearer the time for details so that I don't take him to the wrong type of leek show!

However, he's still driving me nuts with questions about the competitive side of the thing. How do they judge leeks? What qualities and characteristics are they comparing?

I can remember the leek show at the 'tute' in Netherton. I recall that leeks were always displayed in sets of 3, propped up against the backs of the chairs. As far as I remember the size of the leeks in each set was pretty much the same but in some sets the leeks were enormous and in others quite small. However, it wasn't always the biggest that won if my memory serves me right. Could it be that size, in this instance at least, doesn't matter?

I am not sure what kind of leek show it was cause i missed it maybe Keith can tell us i think he frequents the Percy sometimes.

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Types and sizes:

  • Pot Leeks: Must have a blanched (white) area no longer than 150mm (6 inches) with no limit on the circumference.
  • Intermediate Leeks: Must have a blanched area of 150-350-mm (6-14 inches), with no limit to their circumference.
  • Blanch leeks or Trench Leeks: Must have a minimal blanched length of 230mm (9 inches) and can go up to 600mm (24 inches). The minimum length for blanch leeks is 350mm (14 inches

http://woolshed1.blogspot.com/2009/11/leeks-their-growing-and-showing.html

http://www.nvsuk.org.uk/medwyn-williams-vegetable-grow-show-25.html

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2011/09/05/winlaton-pals-leeks-win-turf-hotel-leek-show-72703-29365713/

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I was just about to post that second link as well Vic.

Apparently there are two different sets of rules, the NVS (National Vegetable Society) & RHS (Royal Horticultural Society)

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If you're not a leek grower yourself then that's a very thorough piece of research you've done there Vic. Thank you very much. I had no idea that the growing of leeks was so complicated. It's a science in itself worthy of a degree course at Newcastle University! I can see it now - "Bachelor of leeks" or better still "Master of leeks." That the leeks are judged as a set explains why there were always 3 to a chair and that there are 3 different types of leek explains why they all looked so different and now I've got a clear picture of what the judges are looking for and I've been able to explain it for hubby. He's fair impressed by the pictures in The Chronicle and understands now why I call Swedish leeks 'scallions'. (Yes folks he does understand a wee bit of Geordie. I've promised him an honorary Geordie 'citizenship' when he can get his tongue around 'by hinny this chebles claggy').

The pictures are now winging their way to various parts of Sweden to friends who haven't believed me either. You never know but this just might catch on with the Swedes? The'yre already experts at the other kind of leek show. Thanks again. You've made my day.

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Thank you Canny lass, no I'm not a grower just a eater! my Father-in-law used to be a grower, (Market place club, Blue Bell etc) his seedling growing rituals used to start just after the Xmas in the greenhouse, here our outdoor growing season is too short but we can occasionally buy them in the grocery store, they are pretty small, we chop, bag and freeze them!

I remember that there were different judging standards around the area, if your leeks were too large or too small for your local club they would ask their Marra to put them in their club! I think you had to register early to try and stop this, the prizes were pretty good for the 50's and 60's TV,s etc one of the sneaky ploys was to "try†and sneak into a rivals garden and water or feed their leeks to make them split!

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You never know but this just might catch on with the Swedes? The'yre already experts at the other kind of leek show. Thanks again. You've made my day.

I don't think you could get a swede anywhere as big as the leeks in the picture :rofl:

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I have a friend who visited her son and his wife in Philadelphia and he took her to an upscale pizza place that featured a pizza with braised leeks - she said it was scrumptious.

Paul M.

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I grew leeks on two occasions.

At Widdrington Club i came 9th out of 38 and was really chuffed. That was in 1982 and i retired from leeg growing :thumbsup:

I decided to come out of retirement in 2008 and entered at Guide Post Club. I was hoping to do really well and it never happened for me i was second last :thumbsdown:

Never mind tho on a happier note i win the biggest and best two onions. Everyone was asking for onions off me with that result. :thumbsup:

Never mind i will never enter another it took a lot of time up, but good luck to those who still do it, they keep our tradition alive.

Edited by johndawsonjune1955

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John,

The maximum file size that you can upload and attach to a post is 6Mb so you would probably have to upload it to the likes of Youtube or Vimeo first and then past the link it into this thread.

You will of course have to register an account before you can upload a video to either of the sites.

Edited by Brettly

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i found an archive clip on how to grow the best leeks. now i will see how i can upload this for you. its from the 1950s.

any help on how to upload a video clip ?

Looking forward to it John.

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