FOR one grower at this year's Malvern Autumn Show, giant vegetables are helping him recover from a terrifying near death experience.

In 2018, five Guinness World Records were smashed at the CANNA UK National Giant Vegetables Championship, including one by Gary Heeks who became known as the ‘Celery King’ after taking the record for the heaviest celery, with his weighing in at 42kg.

Breaking a world record is a heart-stopping moment for anyone – but for Gary growing giant veg is helping him get back to full health again after suffering five cardiac arrests on his 57th birthday this year.

“I actually died on my birthday,” said Gary, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. “I was just sat opening my cards and I said to my wife Valerie ‘I don’t feel right’.”

Gary collapsed and his daughter Rachael acted quickly, giving her dad CPR for 30 minutes until paramedics arrived and he was transported to the hospital.

“It must have been terrifying for them,” said Gary, who works as an estate manager.

Gary had another four cardiac arrests in hospital before he was able to be stabilised and given an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which acts as both a pacemaker and defibrillator.

Since then Gary has been using his two allotments and two-acre patch of land where he grows his giant veg to help him stay fit following his health scare.

Gary believes that beyond growing they can play an important role in both mental and physical health.

“I really do think allotments and growing are good for your health,” says Gary. “I feel so good after I have been tending to my vegetables. When you’re there you just have no worries, it’s my little escape.

“The doctors told me to do what I can, and if I get tired I just sit down.”

Gary is currently growing a giant marrow and red cabbage, and the latter he thinks could well bag him another world record at the Malvern Autumn Show.

Tim is the current world record holder for the heaviest red cabbage which weighed in at a whopping 23.7kg. Entering numerous categories this year, Tim says his growing is “going well” and that he's hopeful of another successful year.

“You never know how things are going to go, but the pumpkins I’m growing are looking pretty big right now, so I’d hope to do well again this year.”

The man who makes the decision on who takes home the trophies is competition judge, measurer and weigher, Martyn Davis.

Armed with a tape measure and specialist scales Martyn has been ruling over giant veg since the national championships started at Malvern.

The Malvern Autumn Show will be held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern on September 28 and 29.

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