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Giant vegetables from Cwmbran keep breaking the Guinness World Records

23 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Kevin Fortey and his record breaking tomatillo

A Cwmbran family which specialises in growing giant fruit, veg and plants is celebrating after winning a place in the Guinness World Records (GWR) for the second time this year, bringing their total to nine.

As well as recently beating his own record for growing the heaviest sunflower head, Kevin Fortey, known as Mr Giant Veg, has grown the world’s tallest tomatillo plant.

The previous record for the tallest tomatillo plant, also known as a Cape gooseberry, stood at 3 m (9 ft 10 in) and was grown by John-John Pegram in Petersburg, Virginia, USA, and was verified on 21 November 2018.

At the UK Giant Vegetable Championships at the Three Counties Showground this week, Kevin’s tomatillo was officially measured and recorded at 3.529m or 11ft 6.937 inches.

Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. They are a key ingredient of Mexican cuisine, where they are eaten raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, such as salsa verde, stews, soups, salads, curries, stirfries, cooking with meats and marmalade.

Kevin with the tomatillo which has broken the world record

Kevin, who runs Giant Veg and along with his son, brother, and mother, has now earned places in the GWR no fewer than nine times.

The multi-generational green fingered family have been involved in the growth of giants since Kevin and his brother Gareth’s father, Mike Fortey, began it as a hobby when they were just children.

His late father started holding giant veg contests in the early 80s in the Mill Tavern pub in Cwmbran, with a challenge to see who could grow the biggest onion and the biggest pumpkin.

Like the veg that was being submitted, the competition grew and grew until it became the UK Giant Vegetable championships which is held every year at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern.

World records

Their first record was achieved in 2015 with the world’s longest radish, in 2017 they grew the world’s heaviest chilli and 2019 the secured and still hold the gong for the world’s heaviest beetroot, which weighed in at 23.99kg (53lbs).

In addition to those records, Kevin has twice held the record for the tallest potato plant (2.84 m) and this year beat his own record with a 6.44 kg sunflower head, as well as clinching the record for the world’s biggest sunflower leaf which measured 68 x 87 cm.

Through the family’s social media networks and YouTube channel, Kevin says they hope to inspire people to get out and start growing veg – not just the giant varieties but also those for kitchen and table.

He advocates the joys of gardening as a means of getting youngsters involved in planting and tending the crops, forging strong links between the generations in families, getting fit in the fresh air through the exercise of gardening and of course having fun seeing just how big they can make individual vegetables grow.

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Speaking about his latest success, Kevin said: “In 2019 we were given seeds from Baker Creek following a visit to Mexican growing community in California. We planted these seeds with the aim of challenging the record in 2022. The plants grow better in warmer climates, but we failed to get it to the 3 metres.

“This year, we perfected our growing and grew the plant inside the Keder Greenhouse and over the past week have needed to keep the heat on in the greenhouse due to the cold snap.

“It was a challenge to get it to the Showground in one piece but with the help of our neighbour Kyle, we managed to fit it snuggly inside the van and take it on a journey to the Championships.

“Subject to official confirmation from Guinness World Records this will be our family’s 9th Guinness World Record and is a very proud moment for us. Out dad started off the championships and it’s great to see it growing each year.

“We’ve got other plans for 2024 so hopefully we can round up our record haul to 10.”

Follow the Giant Veg community on Facebook to keep up to date with their latest tips and successes.

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