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
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.