Vegetable Show Planning Guide

Roland Roberts, Tom Longbrake, Sam Cotner and John Larson, Extension Vegetable Specialists
The Texas A&M University System

A well-organized vegetable show can be a valuable educational experience both for exhibitors and for the general public.

The competition for awards motivates exhibitors to sharpen their horticultural skills. Since the object is to bring vegetables to their prime quality at show time, successful showmanship requires that exhibitors apply knowledge of culture and postharvest handling. Exhibitors learn the standards of high quality vegetables from the judges’ critical evaluations of their exhibits.

At a vegetable show, the general public is able to see vegetables of the highest quality and freshness. This encourages them to buy only high quality vegetables. Also, the diversity of vegetables on display motivates people to buy or grow vegetables they haven’t eaten before. Increased utilization of vegetables benefits our nutritional level as well as the Texas vegetable industry.

Show Organization

A vegetable show can be presented by itself or as part of a fair. Start to recruit a show committee of interested persons well ahead of the anticipated show date. The number of people needed will depend on the number of exhibits and activities you expect to have. A chairman, secretary, treasurer and several directors to raise funds and make arrangements comprise an adequate sized committee for a show. Add people as the work load increases. It is wise to involve vo-ag teachers, commercial growers, shippers, home gardeners, and Extension specialists. Try to include both urban and rural people in the planning to make it truly a community effort.

The show committee is responsible for:writing the rules and regulations; establishing entry classes; raising funds to operate the show; preparing a premium book; coordinating and setting up the contest; selecting the show location; conducting a promotion and advertising program; procuring show judges and briefing the judges. In addition to advance planning, the show committee handles all the details of operation on the day of the show. This includes setting up tables, coordinating workers, recording entries, helping judges, recording placings and presenting awards.

Show Activities

Many types of activities can be included in a vegetable show. In addition to the usual competition between entries of individual vegetables there are:mass displays by individuals or clubs; and booths of educational exhibits about vegetable culture, marketing, use and preservation. Impressive displays can be made by assembling large quantities of different types of vegetables in a setting with a cornucopia, or by creating a massive design on a large, inclined platform.

A vegetable judging contest will train young people to become critical judges of quality and to recognize grade defects and causes of defects in vegetables. The National Junior Horticulture Association of America sponsors a national convention every year where state delegates compete in judging and method demonstration contests. Information on this program can be obtained from your Extension vegetable specialists.

Consider having a vegetable king and/or queen contest. Vegetable industry leaders may enthusiastically support this type of activity because it promotes the use of vegetables to the public. Competition can be based on outstanding performance in show competition, garden projects or other activities. The All Valley Winter Vegetable Show has a queen contest which draws considerable public attention to the show.

Quality Specifications for Vegetables

Many carefully cultured vegetables fail to win top honors because of improper handling and trimming in preparation for the show. Exhibitors can assure themselves a far better chance of receiving high awards for their entries by carefully reading and following the size and quality requirements for each kind of vegetable they intend to enter in the show.

The different kinds or species of vegetables are denoted by names such as carrot, cabbage or tomato. Within each kind of vegetable there are many distinct varieties. For example,several tomato varieties are Spring Giant, Chico III and Presto. These tomato varieties differ in fruit size, shape, flavor, plant type, days to maturity, disease resistance and climatic requirement. Therefore, it is very important for the exhibitor, the judges and the people who come to see the show know the different kinds and varieties of vegetables on display. The kind and variety of vegetable should be written on each entry card.

Certain characteristics are common to all blue ribbon winners. The entry must be what it claims to be; that is, it must be “true to type.”All specimens in an entry must be uniform in size, shape, color and maturity. All specimens must be trimmed alike. Champion vegetables are always at prime eating quality –never too old or too young, never too tough or too soft, never scratched or bruised. Freedom from insect and disease damage is important, as is freedom from drought and nutrient deficiency injury.

sample vegetable show card

Show vegetables must be scrupulously clean without having a scrubbed appearance. Leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage and spinach) should be briefly soaked and gently sprayed with water, then stored in a cool, damp place for the short period until show time. Fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans) should be rubbed lightly with a soft cloth as they are rinsed under a gentle stream of water, then carefully dried and stored in a dry, cool place until show time. Root crops should be soaked for several minutes immediately after harvest, and then rubbed gently with a soft cloth under running water to remove soil. Never scrub or brush vegetables intended for a show.

Vegetables are best displayed on large, white, paper plates with exhibitor’s card clearly showing the kind and variety of the vegetable, in addition to the show class. The exhibitor’s name and number can be on the same side of the card, but must be on the half that is folded away from the judge’s view. The judge and public must not see the name or number of the exhibitor until after the judging is completed. This is a strict requirement of proper vegetable showmanship.

The vegetable show is an exciting educational activity for rural and urban people of all ages who are interested in gardening. The show heightens their interest and fosters greater rapport between producers and consumers of vegetables. New interest is generated by an intensive publicity effort prior to the show.

Suggested Specifications for Certain Vegetables

Anise Wax Beans Green Snap Beans
Beets Broccoli Chinese Cabbage
Green Cabbage Red Cabbage Savoy Cabbage
Cantaloupe Bunched Carrots Cello-Pack Carrots
Cauliflower Celery Swiss Chard
Collards Sweet Corn Cucumber, Pickling
Cucumber, Slicing Dandelion Dill
Eggplant Endive Escarole
Kale Kohlrabi Lettuce, Head
Lettuce, Boston-Bibb Lettuce, Romaine Mustard Greens
Okra Onions, Green Onions, Dry
Parsley, Curled Parsley, Plain Parsley, Root
Peas, Southern Pepper, Bell, Green Pepper, Bell, Red
Pepper, Hot Potato, Irish Potato, Sweet
Pumpkin, Small Sugar Radish, Bunched Radish, Cello-Pack
Spinach Squash, Summer, Yellow, Crooked Neck Squash, Summer, Yellow, Straight Neck
Squash, Summer, White, Scallop Squash, Winter, Butternut Squash, Winter, Acorn
Tomato, Cherry Tomato, Pear Tomato, Large, Red
Turnip Greens Turnips Watermelon


3 heads per plate — Heads should be 3 to 5 inches across at the base. Outer spreading leaves should be removed and the butt or base trimmed and cut cleanly with a sharp knife. Do not tie. Wash the leaves gently so they stay green and crisp.

Wax Beans

10 to 12 pods per plate — Pods should be uniform in size and shape, at proper maturity to be golden yellow (not beany) and at prime stage for fresh use or freezing. At least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of stem must be present on each pod. Pods must be turgid, free of twisting and true to type.

Green Snap Beans

10 to 12 pods per plate — Green snap beans are prepared and displayed like wax beans. There are flat pod and round pod varieties. All pods must be the same lengthwith at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of stem on each pod. Insect damage, disease and poor trimming are faults.


3 standard bunches, 3 to 5 roots per bunch — Beets should be smooth, uniform in size, free of cracks and rough spots and free of worm tunnels. A diameter of 11/2 to 21/2 inches is desirable. The color should be dark red and free of white steaks. Tops should be free of disease and insect damage. Topped beets are a separate class. The tops are cut cleanly at a point 1 to 11/2 inches above the shoulder of the root and tap root is left intact.


3 bunches of 3 to 4 clusters each — Broccoli heads should be uniform and properly matured. Tight buds, free of protruding leaves, are desirable. Large clusters or heads with deep blue-green color and tight buds are preferred. The stem of each head should be cut straight across to give an over-all length of 6 to 7 inches. Cut leaf petioles flush with the surface of the main stem.

Chinese Cabbage

3 heads per plate — Heads 12 to 16 inches in height and 5 to 6 inches in diameter are considered ideal. Outer leaves should be trimmed to give heads a tight, cylindrical appearance. Stems should be cut cleanly at the base of the last wrapper leaf. Yellow, wilted or damaged leaves are serious faults.

Green Cabbage

3 heads per plate — Heads must be uniform in symmetry, size and firmness. Firm heads with 3 to 4 wrapper leaves that curl just slightly at the edge are best. Stem must be cut cleanly at the exact base of the last wrapper leaf. Yellow, wilted or bruised leaves are not permitted.

Red Cabbage

3 marketable heads — Red cabbage should be selected and trimmed in a manner similar to green cabbage. Heads must be firm and uniform in every way. Wrapper leaves with worm damage, decay or injury are faults.

Savoy Cabbage

3 marketable heads — Savoy cabbage should be selected and trimmed in a manner similar to green and red cabbage. Heads must be firm and all leaves free of injury, insect damage, discoloration and decay.


3 fruits — Cantaloupes should be fully matured and at prime eating stage. Fruits must be uniform in size, shape, color and maturity. Fruits picked 1 to 2 days before the show, at 1/2 to 3/4 slip, and kept dry at room temperature will be near their prime quality. The stem scar must be dry and free from decay. The melon must have a rich, sweet aroma.

Bunched Carrots

3 standard bunches — There should be 6 to 8 roots, 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, per bunch. The roots must be uniform in length and diameter, smooth and bright orange. Rootlets and ripples in the flesh are undesirable. Tops must have good color and be free of insect and disease damage. Carrots with cut tops are a separate class. Cut tops 1/2 inch from the shoulder or flush with shoulder. Processing varieties should be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter.


Pack Carrots

3 clear, unprinted plastic bags of 1 pound each — Roots should be 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Tops should be trimmed uniformly to within 1/2 of shoulder. Root quality and preparation are similar to that for bunched carrots. Roots must be free of cracks, cuts and insect damage.


3 marketable heads — Heads should be uniform in size and maturity with tight, white buds free of protruding leaves. Heads should be 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Leaves should be neatly trimmed level with the top surface of the head. The base should be trimmed cleanly. Yellowed buds and discolored or injured leaves are faults.


3 marketable plants — Celery should be at least 9 inches long from the base of the first leaflet on the outside petiole. Trim off outer stalks that may be damaged. Trim the basal end straight across. Dark green stalks and leaves are desirable. Green, tender petioles tightly held together are desirable.

Swiss Chard

3 standard bunches — Each bunch should contain 5 to 8 cut leaves and be 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter at point of tie. Large, deep green, tender leaves free of insect and disease damage are desirable.


3 standard bunches — Each bunch should be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches at point of tie with roots removed. Oval leaves 8 to 10 inches in span are desirable. Leaves must be free of insect and mechanical damage.

Sweet Corn

6 marketable ears — Ears should be well filled out to the tip, with outer loose husks removed, butts trimmed cleanly and silk intact. Tight, dark green husks are desirable. Kernels must be at prime young milk stage, not doughy or watery.

Cucumber, Pickling

6 fruits — Pickling cucumbers should be uniform, straight with blunt ends, free of yellow color, not more than 2 1/16 inches in diameter and not more than 6 inches in length. Cut stem 1/4 inch from fruit shoulder. Curved or tapered fruits are undesirable.

Cucumber, Slicing

6 marketable fruits, some shows only require 3 — Slicing cucumbers should be 7 to 8 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Dark green, straight, symmetrical fruit with rounded ends are desirable. Cut stem 1/4 inch from fruit shoulder. Fruit must be free of yellow color and flabbiness.


3 standard bunches — Dandelion bunches should each be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter at point of tie. Three to four well-formed plants 15 to 18 inches long make a good sized bunch. Cleanly cut off roots at base of crown. Tie bunch 3 to 4 inches above base of plants. Trim off all old or damaged leaves.


3 standard bunches — Each bunch should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches at point of tie. Individual stems should be cut and tied in a bunch 3 to 4 inches from the base. Stems and leaves should be tender and bright green.


3 marketable fruits — The green calyx should be clean and free of brown edges or patches. Trim stem 1 to 1 1/2 inch beyond the calyx base. Fruit must be free of green or white streaking.


3 marketable heads — Individual heads should be displayed flat with leaves loose. Plants should be 10 to 15 inches in diameter with a cream colored heart. Entire plant must be free of soil. Trim stem base flat across and even with the base of the first leaf.


3 marketable heads — Escarole should be prepared and displayed in a manner similar to endive.


3 standard bunches — Each bunch should be 1 1/2 inches in diameter at point of tie, well-trimmed and without roots. A bunch is 6 to 8 leaves gathered and tied below the leaf blade to form a compact group. Trim stem bases after tying. Leaves should be fresh, crisp and a dark blue-green.


3 standard bunches, 4 plants per bunch — Petioles of 4 plants should be tied in a neat bunch. The bulbs should be 2 1/4 to 3 inches in diameter. Roots should be cut flush with base of bulb. Plants must be uniform in size and shape.

Lettuce, Head

3 marketable heads — Heads should be uniform in size, color and maturity. Heads should be moderately firm to hard with two intact wrapper leaves. Trim butt to within 1/8 to 1/4 inch of bottom leaf.

Lettuce, Boston-


3 marketable heads — Heads should be uniform in size, color and maturity. Trim each head to remove old, discolored and damaged leaves. Select compact, young heads. Heads vary from 5 to 9 inches in diameter, depending on variety.

Lettuce, Romaine

3 marketable heads — Romaine does not form a tight head, but good heads are compact and 9 to 12 inches long. Prepare in a manner similar to Boston Lettuce.

Mustard Greens

3 standard bunches — Greens should measure 1 1/2 to 2 inches at point of tie with roots removed. They can be flat or curly mustard. Neatly trimmed, clean, crisp leaves are desirable.


12 pods — Pods should be uniform in diameter, length and color, and should be young and tender, not over mature and leathery. Pods may have young seeds, but must be tender. Cut stems 1/2 inch from pod shoulder.

Onions, Green

3 standard bunches — Bunches should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter at point of tie, with full tops and roots clipped to within 1/2 inch of bulb. Bulbs should be 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter. Strip loose or yellow leaves to expose clean, white base. The shank should be straight with little or no swelling.

Onions, Dry

6 bulbs — Bulbs should be uniform in size, shape and color. Ideal bulb diameter is 2 to 4 inches. Spanish varieties are usually larger than Grano and Granex. Cut tops cleanly 1/2 to 1 inch above shoulder of bulb. Cut rootlets completely off. Leave one dry, highly colored outer leaf scale.

Parsley, Curled

3 marketable bunches — Each bunch should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter at point of tie. Cut all stems to same length after tying bunch. Stems should form a compact, straight bunch. Crisp, fresh, green leaves are best.

Parsley, Plain

3 marketable bunches — Prepare plain parsley in a manner similar to curly parsley.

Parsley, Root

3 standard bunches composed of entire plant — Each bunch should contain 3 to 5 fully developed, intact plant with straight, uniform, clean, roots 6 to 8 inches long. Bunches should measure 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter at point of tie.

Peas, Southern

10 to 12 marketable pods — Pods should be true to color, shiny, long, straight and well-filled. One-fourth inch of the stem should be left on each pod.

Pepper, Bell, Green

6 marketable fruits or pods — All fruits should have the same number of lobes (3 or 4).Stems should be cut cleanly and level with shoulder of fruit. Size, shape and color of fruit should be uniform.

Pepper, Bell, Red

6 marketable fruits or pods — All fruits should be completely red. Preparation is the same as the green bell pepper.

Pepper, Hot

6 marketable fruits or pods — Fruits should be true to shape for variety and free of cracks and blemishes. Cut stems 1/2 to 1 inch from shoulder of fruit.

Potato, Irish

6 marketable tubers, some shows specify 2 pounds of tuber — Tubers should be uniform in size, shape and maturity. Size range should be 6 to 12 ounces, with minimum tuber diameter 1 7/8 inches. Skin must be firm, well-cured, not peeling and free of soil.

Potato, Sweet

6 marketable tubers, some shows specify 2 pounds of tuber — Tubers should be uniform in size, shape and color. Tubers should weigh 8 to 16 ounces and be 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Skin must be firm, well-cured and clean.

Pumpkin, Small Sugar

3 fruits — Fruits should be well-formed, thick fleshed, mature and well-cured. Desirable qualities are hard , dark orange skin with tiny brown spots in the orange pigment, and stem cut cleanly where it is attached to the vine. Freedom from scratches and soil are important.

Radish, Bunched

3 standard bunches — Radishes should be 5/8 to 1 inch in diameter with tops on. Each bunch should contain 8 to 10 radishes. Tops should be tied in a neat bunch. Leaves should be fresh, green and free of damage.

Radish, Cello-


3 clear, unprinted plastic bags filled with radishes 5/8 to 3/4 inch in diameter — Tops should be clipped off cleanly at shoulder of root, and tap root left intact.


3/4 to 1 pound of plants — Crown should be intact and roots removed. Leaves should be crisp, dark green, clean and free of damage from insects, disease or mishandling.

Squash, Summer, Yellow, Crooked Neck

6 marketable fruits under 6 inches in length — Fruits must be true to variety and uniform in size, shape and color. Fruits must be picked young while skin is very tender, and should be free of scratches and bruises.

Squash, Summer, Yellow, Straight Neck

6 marketable fruits under 9 inches in length — Picking and preparation is the same as crooked neck squash. Necks must be straight.

Squash, Summer, White, Scallop

6 marketable fruits 2 to 3 inches in diameter — Freedom from scratches, bruises and insect or disease damage is important. Skin should be glossy.

Squash, Winter, Butternut

6 marketable fruits — Fruits should have dark tan skin, be well-cured and smooth. Stem should be cleanly cut to 1/2 to 1 inch above fruit. A thick, straight neck in relation to the bulb end is desirable.

Squash, Winter, Acorn

6 marketable fruits over 3 inches in diameter — Dark skin with deep yellow ground color is desirable. Stem should be removed at shoulder of fruit.

Tomato, Cherry

20 fruits — Stems (calyx) may be left on, but must be green and fresh. Stems are often removed. Uniformity is size, color, shape, and maturity are important. Fruits must be free of cracks and damage.

Tomato, Pear

12 fruits — Pear tomatoes of Italian tomatoes are prepared and shown in a manner similar to cherry tomatoes.

Tomato, Large, Red

6 marketable fruits — Fruits may be either green or red. All fruits must be uniform in every way. Firm, crack-free, smooth fruits are desirable. If calyx is left intact, it must be fresh and green. The green calyx adds to the fruit’s appearance only if it is fresh.

Turnip Greens

3 standard bunches — Bunches should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches at point of tie, well-trimmed, with roots removed or intact. With roots, they should not exceed 1 inch in diameter. Leaves must be free of damage from insects, disease or mishandling.


3 standard bunches — Each bunch consists of four to five roots, with each root 2 to 3 inches in diameter. The tap root is left intact. Roots must be clean and free of insect damage.


1 marketable fruit — Ice box types weigh 4 to 8 pounds. Large types weigh 15 to 40 or 50 pounds. Deep green skin, highly colored contrasting striped, or even gray-green skin is desirable, depending on the variety. Melon must be ready to eat, and be smooth and clean.

The information herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Texas AgriLife Extension is implied.

Educational programs conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.

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