Forget doping at major sports events and auto-tuning technology at music concerts, there’s a potentially bigger scandal when it comes to competition cheating at the moment.
A flower show has resorted to using DNA technology to ensure that a prize for a giant tomato is not awarded to a cheating grower, after competitors raised concerns about an unscrupulous gardener stealing the show.
Organisers of the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show will be engaging the help of Dutch specialists for its special Gigantomo class, which offers a £1,000 prize for the owner of the largest, um, tomatoes. And if the winner sets a new world record for the heaviest specimen, they could scoop a further £5,000.
But as some suspect that real rotten apples could smuggle rogue varieties of the fruit into the championship, the scientists will be testing entries’ DNA to make sure they are indeed from the correct strain of the plant.
The new class for Gigantomo tomatoes, a beefsteak variety developed for its huge red fruit, was launched in January with the final weigh-in on Friday.
Show director Nick Smith said: “Giant veg growing is great fun and tremendously popular with our visitors, but it also has a serious side, especially with such a big prize at stake.
“When experienced growers contacted us about making sure the new class for Gigantomo would feature only specimens from that variety, we set out to find a way of being as certain as possible that the winner has the right pedigree.”
For those who are not au fait with the Harrogate veg competition, it is a surprisingly popular affair, launched in 2011 to celebrate the centenary of its organiser, the North of England Horticultural Society.
Every year the exhibition tables groan with produce in 13 heaviest or longest classes, including cabbages, marrows, parsnips, carrots, beetroots, potatoes and leeks.
Last year, two new world records and a new British record were set at the competition.
The current Guinness record for the heaviest tomato stands at 7.7lb, so let’s see if this year’s entries can “ketch up”.