Standards for judging spring fruits and vegetables

Page last updated: Friday, 4 November 2016 - 8:22am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Exhibiting fruit and vegetables at shows is a popular activity. The requirements for exhibition at each show may be different and entrants should check the show guidelines before preparing an entry. Information on possible show requirements for different fruit and vegetables is provided.   


Each show has different requirements and the program should be examined a few weeks before judging. Exhibitors must follow the specifications in the show schedule closely. These may include the type and number required in the exhibit, as well as specifications on variety, colour, size, shape and presentation.

Crops, especially vegetables, should be irrigated before harvesting for the show. 

Produce should be arranged attractively on plates or directly on to the table. Show specifications should be followed where they describe how an exhibit is to be presented. Non-compliance with the requirements set for the category can result in disqualification, despite the quality of the produce. 

Fruit and vegetables should be presented fresh and at the optimum eating stage, unless otherwise specified.


In judging fruits and vegetables, quality is the most important factor. The judge must consider all conditions which influence quality — maturity, freshness, internal characteristics and freedom from disease, insect damage and blemishes. 

The judge must be familiar with the characteristics of the different varieties and market requirements, particularly size and varieties. Too much emphasis is often placed by societies, exhibitors and judges on large size, whereas this aspect is important only to certain produce. What is most important is uniformity of size and freedom from blemish on all specimens presented. 

Presenting a range of sizes in any category will give the judges a reason to take points off the entry, unless a range of sizes is specifically requested. 

The judge should consider whether the exhibits in the show are from commercial operations or from home gardeners. Organic produce also needs special judgement. 

Cutting the product to determine internal quality is often important and judges can be expected to do it. This applies especially to fruits, including a test for flavour and texture. With vegetables, cutting or opening pods to determine the internal appearance is important. A flavour test can be conducted with capsicums, carrots, peas, sweet corn and tomatoes but is not advisable on chillies!

Crops prone to bolting — lettuce, celery and leeks — should be checked for the presence of a seed stem before entering the specimen and celery stalks must not be 'pithy'. 

Judging is largely a process of elimination. To satisfy judges, exhibitors should make every effort to eliminate faults in their exhibit. The first thing a judge does is to knock out those exhibits with faults such as:

  • sand or soil deposits
  • chemical residues on the produce
  • holes, lesions, spots, cracking, live insects, burning in the leaves or fruit
  • damage attributable to insects, disease, weather damage or nutrient deficiency, chemical or other odours
  • bruising or blemishes
  • wilting.

To avoid elimination, it is important that all items of produce are:

  • at the peak of their maturity or fit the maturity category in the show schedule
  • as close as possible to the same size and/or weight, colour, shape and type
  • in the case of a display, the entry should have the maximum number of possible types. 

Poor uniformity of size, weight and maturity is often used to separate exhibits which are difficult to judge. One short cucumber on a tray of six, or one light lettuce in an exhibit of three, will downgrade the exhibit.

Tomatoes are often eliminated because of mixed maturities. If the category says ‘half ripe’, do not put nine half-ripe fruit on the tray and plug the last gap in the tray with a green fruit. 

Root vegetables should be carefully washed to remove soil but do not apply oils or similar substances to enhance their appearance. Wash with a soft cloth and plenty of water; brushing will damage the skin and spoil the appearance of the exhibit. On other types, retain the natural 'bloom' wherever possible, especially with cabbage, cucumbers, peas, plums and zucchini. 

With a ‘largest and best competition’, the largest may not necessarily be the winner. Judges may have difficulty deciding whether the longest or the heaviest is what is required for the category. It is a challenge for the show committee to be precise about what the criteria are for judging each category. 

The desired characteristics of fruits and vegetables for judging are given below. Unseasonal types for a spring show are not mentioned — apples, eggplant, grapes, melons and olives. 


Artichokes, globe 
Large, heavy, shapely, well-closed single heads of plump, fleshy scales with no signs of flowering. 

Straight, thick, bright stems with well-closed scales. 

Beans, broad 
Long, fresh, well-filled pods, with clear, shiny skins and tender seeds. 

Straight, fresh, tender pods of even length and good colour, with no outward sign of seeds, which should be half mature. The distinction between French (bush) and runner (staked) types is often unclear. 

Well proportioned, smooth skin and flesh of a uniform dark colour, with no prominent rings and a single small taproot. 

Compact head, tender, clean, dark green. Defects are wilting, opening of flowers, yellowing, white blister disease on the heads and hollow stems. 

Brussels sprouts 
Fresh, solid, tightly closed sprouts of good colour. 

Heart should be firm, compact, of good colour and fresh. Outside protective leaves must be attached. Red, green, Chinese and Savoy types. 

Fresh, firm, bright shiny, well-shaped fruits with mainly green, red or yellow skins and no blossom end rot. 

Straight, deep orange, no forking and uniformity of size are important. Smooth skin and a small core. No greening on the tops of the roots. 

Exhibit with protective leaves attached and the leaves trimmed to expose the curd which should be compact, deep, firm and white (not cream or pink). Should be free from riciness. There should no leaves growing through the curd and no hollow stems. 

Large, well-blanched, firm and crisp, free from stringiness, fresh, clean and blemish-free. No flower stalks. 

Uniform shape, either green or red (not shrivelled), sweet or hot types. 

Courgettes, marrows and zucchini 
Courgettes (5 to 10cm long) and zucchini (10 to 25cm long) are immature marrows. There are green or yellow types. Should have a clear, shiny, skin, fresh and tender with a small seed cavity and thick flesh. Courgettes may include flowers on their ends. Marrows are 30 to 40cm long, evenly shaped, smooth skin. 

Fresh, young, green, tender, blemish-free, straight fruits of uniform thickness; field and burpless (greenhouse) types. 

Symmetrical, solid, clean, well-ripened bulbs with thin dry necks. Not divided into segments (cloves). 

There are many types. Should be fresh and with good even colour. 

Should have uniformly thick, long, tender, firm, well-blanched stems and no tendency to puffiness. Fresh green leaves, no wilting. Free from bulbing and ribbiness. 

Head lettuce should be firm, clean, solid, fresh, tender and crisp. Defects are wilting, over maturity and presence of blemishes such as tip burn on the margins of the leaves. Exhibits should be trimmed of loose leaves. Other types may include head or loose-leaf (gourmet) lettuce, red or green, cos and butterhead. 

Should be firm, of a uniform size and shape, with a small neck. There should be no depression or softness round the base of the neck. Brown, white or red types. Globe, flat or pickling shapes. 

Long, straight, well-developed, well-shouldered, evenly tapered, shapely roots, smooth skinned, even colour and free from side roots. 

Garden peas with large, fresh pods of good colour with bloom and well filled with tender sweet seeds. Snow peas have little seed development and should have evenly shaped pods. 

Should be uniform in size, shape and general appearance. The tubers should be medium size — not too large, sprouts not well developed, no greening and with shallow eyes. Good internal quality, with no blackening or hollowness. Mainly red, purple or white-skinned with white or yellow flesh. 

Shapely, firm fruit of even colour and ripeness with stalk attached and thick flesh. Large round or smaller butternut types. 

Should be crisp, fresh and solid, of good colour. Defects are hollowness, pithiness and over-maturity. Small, round or long types. Leaves trimmed as specified. 

The pulled stalks should be long, thick, fresh, clean, straight, well-shaped, tender and brittle. Deep red colour, extending as far as possible up the stem. Leaf blades trimmed as specified. 

The stalks should be long, broad, clean and white. Leaves should be green, uniform and crisp. No wilting or over-maturity. White or reddish stalked types. 

Fresh, undamaged, tender, dark-green leaves. Remove roots. No wilting or yellowing. 

Bright, glossy skins. Green or yellow types. With or without flower. Shapely, uniform, 5 to 10cm diameter. No bruising. 

Fresh, uniform, cylindrical cobs with straight rows of undamaged kernels and fresh green husks. 

Sweet potatoes 
Should not be placed in the potato section. Medium, not too large, good shape. Purple or orange skins, white or orange flesh. 

Should be uniform in size, firm, shape and appearance, possessing clean skin. Fruit should be evenly ripened, of good colour and flavour and with a minimum of core. Flesh should be thick, both of the outer walls and sections. No blossom end rot, cracks or catface. Table and cherry types, red or yellow. 

Turnips and swedes 
Clear-skinned, solid, shapely roots with small tap roots and no side shoots. Turnips size and shape according to cultivar and small to medium sized. Swedes medium-sized, clear-skinned and solid, shapely roots.


Good shape, medium to large uniform size, good colour, green or purple skins. 

Cape gooseberries 
Calyces intact and dry, deep orange, clean fruits. 

Large, shapely fruits of good even colour natural to the cultivar with bright, shiny skins. Thin skins are preferable. No scale insects. 

Good size and colour, shapely, smooth yellow or orange skin. 

Large, ripe fruits of good colour and not wilted. 

Mainly almonds, macadamias, chestnuts and walnuts. Large nuts with clean shells and plump fresh kernels filling the cavities. 

Good size, good purple or red skin, not excessively wrinkled. Juicy pulp with many seeds, filling the whole cavity. 

Stone fruits
Large, fully ripe fruits of good colour with bloom intact (plums) and having stalks. 

Large, ripe fruits of good colour, bright and fresh, good shape and with stalks. No leaves in fruit. Fruit with white shoulders or tips should not be included; a conical shape is preferred. 


The original version of this material was authored by John Burt.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080

Standards for judging spring fruits and vegetables