Show preparation

Download a copy of our show notes here

Tips for fruit, veg and flower preparation

(Note this list is long so click here for a PFD version you can print easily.)

Picking for a show is different from picking for the kitchen - there are rules to observe. Keep strigs in fruit, e.g. the green calyx on tomatoes, strawberries & raspberries, to prove it was grown, not bought.

Beet, carrots, parsnips & turnips should have 3" of leaf stalk. Trim the tops of leeks.

If possible exhibit marrows & courgettes with the flower on.

Sweetcorn should have 1" of husk, silk and hank left on.

Runner beans should be straight with a short footstalk. Trim stalks to same length for all to give uniformity. No outline of the beans inside should be showing.

With broad beans too, no outline of the beans inside should be showing. If the black eye on broad beans is showing, choose smaller beans.

Peas - ideally should have around 9 in a pod. Don't overhandle them or the bloom on the pod becomes spoiled. Hold them up to the light to see if there are any gaps between the peas inside. Such gaps lose points.

The natural bloom should be preserved on grapes, plums, apples, etc.

Gooseberries: should be shown on the stalk and not hulled. Don't top and tail gooseberries that are going to be shown.

Currants should be shown as a bunch.

Rhubarb: shown as a veg. Remove leaf blades so there is not more than 3" of leaf blade left. However, forced rhubarb should not be trimmed.

Tomatoes: classes have recently been altered because lots more cherry and beafsteak tomatoes are grown now. However, plum tomatoes get the most points. The calyx should be fresh with good colour.

Spinach gets extra points for colour.

Beetroot also get extra points for colour. Beetroot are a maritime plant & like a bit of salt. Give a light dressing when you sow the seed & once ½ way through the season. Just before the show, sponge gently in salty water.

Roots should be washed with a soft sponge and water. Never use a brush to wash roots - they will get broken. Broken skin on potatoes will cost points. Veg can be left unwashed and unpolished.

Pack exhibits carefully for transport. Wrap veg in damp newspaper. Wrap runner beans in a damp tea-towel as it keeps them crisp.

When transporting fruit, pack it carefully to avoid damage.

Veg can be displayed on a dish, plate or doily. Collections of veg can be garnished with parsley - but don't overdo the garnish.

If garnishing fruit, it should be with its own leaf as the garnish.

If the schedule says "display in a seed tray or box", do so. Don't lay the veg on the show bench.. Borrow a tray from the society.

For a collection, choose veg that have higher points such as leeks, celery, parsnips. Herbs can be shown in a collection of vegetables but won't earn many points. (See points list in schedule pages).

Onions other than spring (salad) onions should have 1" of the top turned over & tied down neatly. Extra points are obtained for using natural string or raffia. Do not skin onions excessively. Trim roots & tidy skin a little if necessary, without exposing the fleshy onion inside.

Shallots should be separated, not exhibited as clusters of bulbs.

Pickling onions should be less than 1" in diameter. Again, do not skin excessively. Tidy the roots and tie the tops.

Pot plants: note the size of the pot, stated in the schedule. Measure from rim to rim taking the inside diameter. Water pot plants so that they are fresh. At home, turn the pot every day so that the plant develops a nice shape. Pot plants need to have been in the possession of the owner for the 3 months previous to the show.

Flowers: cut them in the evening or early morning. Make a slanting cut.

Choose flowers with no weather/pest damage. Cut foliage too.

With specimen roses, the judges look for an upright pointed bud centre with rounded petals.

Remember that a warm show hall can cause flowers to droop, fully open or drop. A tight bud at 6 a.m. can be a full bloom by 12 o'clock.

Cut more specimens than you actually need, choosing in a good light.

Allow yourself plenty of time to stage your exhibits. Take time for a thorough check after you finish staging.

Check that you have the required number of specimens required.

Uniformity of size, form and colour bring in higher marks.

With Floral Art, cut flowers must be exhibited with their stems in water. Succulent plant material is OK if not in water.

Entrants MUST adhere to the size rules in show classes.

The full rules and regulations can be found in the RHS Horticultural Show Handbook, available from the Royal Horticultural Society and, for floral art, the NAFAS handbook (address available from committee members).

Top tips for high cookery scores

from the WI handbook "On With The Show"

TEA BREAD: ¼ or less fat to flour. Usually fruit soaked in tea. Evenly baked in loaf tin. Well risen with domed top which may have cracked. Texture fairly moist but may be close.

CAKES IN GENERAL: should be well risen, even in shape & baking and in proportion (depth, width). Sides should be smooth indicating well lined tin (lining papers should be removed). Present cakes on a plate with a doily. Fruit should be evenly distributed with no burnt fruit showing (remove before baking). Domed appearance with slight cracking is OK.

SCONES: Mix with milk not eggs. Best results from using cream of tartar with bicarb of soda/sour milk. Should be even in shape, colour and size, 2 - 2 ½ inches diameter, almost as tall as round. Ideally, flat on top, a pale gold colour with light, springy texture more like a bread than a cake. Fruit scones should be cut with a fluted cutter. Not expected to be glazed, but may be dusted with flour before baking. No overcooked fruit on surfaces.

SAVOURY FLAN: savoury pastry (cheese/herb) may be used. Note on flan cooking: A flan dish may be used but pastry doesn't always cook through underneath. Putting dish on a baking sheet may increase base heat.

SHORTCRUST PASTRY: Texture light & short, not hard or brittle.

SPONGE FRUIT FLAN: fatless sponge. Texture open, spongy, no toughness. Filling decorative, neat, in good proportion to sponge layer. Glaze with arrowroot or apricot glaze, not jelly, & evenly but not too thick.

MERINGUE: fine texture, completely dry, no sugary centre.

JAMS: jar filled to within 3mm of top (fill to the top & allow for shrinkage). Colour bright, even and characteristic. No scum, foreign bodies, mould or sugar crystals. Even fruit distribution - not too many stones. Consistency jellified, not runny or sticky, no loose liquid or syrup. Flavour full, fresh & characteristic of the fruit.

JELLIES: should be brilliantly clear. No pulp, haze, scum or air bubbles. Consistency should tremble but hold its shape. Colour even, bright & characteristic. Flavour true of fruit, full and well balanced. Jars of jams & jellies should be sealed as soon as they are filled, with a new twist top, OR a new press-on cover OR a wax disc and then covered with a cellophane top when cooled. No cellophane = no wax disc needed.

Marking of Cookery Entries

Each item is marked on its own merits, out of 20 marks.

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