Tomato Preparation Guide for Showing and Displaying
Drs. Roland Roberts, Tom Longbrake, Sam Cotner and
John Larson, Retired Extension Vegetable Specialists, The Texas A&M University System
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 Tycoon, BHN 968 and Tygress. 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.
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.
Suggested Specifications for Certain Vegetables
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.
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 length with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 — 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 bulbs — Bulbs should be uniform in size, shape and color. Ideal bulb diameter is 2 to 4 inches. Cut tops cleanly 1/2 to 1 inch above shoulder of bulb. Cut rootlets completely off. Leave one dry, highly colored outer leaf scale.
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.
3 marketable bunches — Prepare plain parsley in a manner similar to curly parsley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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