Desirable Characteristics - Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide - University of Illinois Extension

Desirable Characteristics

In addition to being uniform in size, shape, color, and stage of maturity, the vegetables should have certain other characteristics common for the type. The following suggestions may help you select vegetables for an exhibit or competition. These are only general recommendations, and should supplement the exact rules established by your own show committee.


  • Straight, dark green spears with tight scales.
  • Free of rust disease, insect injury, or other blemishes.
  • Spears trimmed to 7 or 8 inches.
  • Display in a shallow pan of water to prevent wilting.

Bean, Lima

  • Pod well-filled, bright green, tender, and fresh.
  • Trim stems to 1/4 inch.
  • Clean by wiping with soft, dry cloth; do not wash.

Bean, Snap

  • Pods tender, stringless, brittle, with seeds in immature stage.
  • Free of dirt, rust, blemishes, or other imperfections.
  • Trim stems to 1/4 inch.
  • Clean by wiping with a soft, dry cloth or by washing if necessary.


  • Smooth, free of side roots and blemishes.
  • Medium to small sizes preferred (1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter).
  • Flesh, when cut, should be firm, crisp, and fine-grained.
  • Can be displayed with top leaves, or cut down to 1/2 to 1 inch; tap root should be left on.
  • Clean by soaking and washing.


  • Stalk and head at least 6 inches long, firm, tender, crisp, and with good color.
  • Buds tightly closed.
  • Center head at least 3 inches in diameter.
  • Leaves removed below head.
  • Clean by dipping in cold water.


  • Head solid and heavy for size.
  • Free of blemishes and insect damage.
  • Stem evenly trimmed at base.
  • One to two outer wrapper leaves should be left on.
  • Clean by washing in water or wiping with a dry or moist cloth.


  • Specimens straight with deep orange, smooth skin.
  • Free of cracks, greening, or side roots.
  • Tops trimmed to 1/2 to 1 inch; do not remove tap root.
  • Length: short varieties, 2 1/4 -2 1/2 inches; half-long varieties, 5 to 7 inches long; long varieties, 7 1/2 inches or more.
  • Clean by washing; do not scrub. Use a soft brush to remove dirt around the top and in creases.


  • Heads pure white, solid, and uniform, with 4 to 6 protective leaves attached.
  • Protective leaves trimmed to 1 inch to expose curd.
  • Curd should be compact, deep, firm, and at least 4 inches in diameter.
  • Stem cut off 1/4 inch below bottom leaf.
  • Clean by wiping with dry cloth or washing if necessary.

LettuceCorn, Sweet

  • Ears fresh and well-filled from tips to butt ends.
  • Kernels plump, soft, tender, and arranged in closely-spaced rows.
  • Remove “flag” leaves but do not remove husks.
  • Clean by wiping with dry cloth
  • Trim base evenly.


  • Straight, deep green, with blunt ends.
  • Trim stem 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.
  • Slicing cucumbers: 6 to 9 inches long and not over 2-1/2 inches in diameter; pickling cucumbers: not more than 3-1/2 inches long and 1-1/4 inches in diameter.
  • Do not wax.
  • Clean by wiping with a soft, dry or moist cloth if necessary.


  • Specimens firm and shiny, with uniform, deep color.
  • Small blossom scar and a fresh green calyx.
  • Trim stem to 1 inch.
  • Clean by wiping with soft, dry or moist cloth.


  • Medium-sized bulbs with small, well-dried necks.
  • The outer scales should be intact and the roots trimmed close to the bulbs.


  • Leaves fresh and tender; free of blemishes.
  • Trim stems evenly.
  • Clean by washing, if necessary.


  • Specimens 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and tender with good color.
  • Leave 4 to 6 crown leaves, trimmed to 1/2 inch.
  • Cut off tap root 1/2 inch below the enlarged stem.
  • Clean by brushing or wiping with dry cloth.


  • Specimens should be long and straight with white stems.
  • Trim the end of the tops in an arrow-shape
  • Cut roots to 1/4-inch


  • Evenly netted and free of decay spots, defects, or cracks.
  • Smooth stem scar, indicating harvest at “full-slip” stage.
  • Clean by brushing or wiping when soil is dry.


  • Small pods, fresh, bright green, and not over 3 inches long.
  • Leave 1/2 inch of stem.
  • Clean by wiping with dry or moist cloth, or by brushing.


  • Firm, mature, well-shaped bulbs, at least 2 inches in diameter.
  • Avoid double and split bulbs, and those with soft necks.
  • Remove loose or discolored skins; do not peel completely; if the bulb appears shiny, you have peeled too far.
  • Trim top to 1 inch; trim roots to 1/4 inch.
  • Clean by washing carefully or by brushing  specimens while dry.

LettuceOnion, Green

  • Good specimens have long, white stems 1/2 inch or less in diameter.
  • The bulb should be only slightly larger than the stems.
  • Trim the tips evenly; trim the roots to 1/4 inch.


  • Roots solid, smooth, well-shaped, and 2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Tapered evenly with no side roots.
  • Skin a light, creamy yellow color.
  • Tops trimmed to 1 inch; leave taproot on.
  • Clean by soaking in water to remove dirt; do not scrub.


  • The pods should be green and fresh; do not exhibit dry or shriveled pods.
  • Handling the pods more than necessary will remove the bloom (the natural waxy coating).
  • Trim the stem to 1/4 inch.
  • Shell peas should be well-filled; snow-type peas should be flat.

Pepper, Bell

  • Specimens firm, thick-fleshed, and deep in color.
  • All should have the same number of lobes.
  • Trim stems to 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
  • Clean by wiping with a soft, dry cloth or washing if necessary.

Pepper (other than bell types)

  • Specimens with length, shape, and color typical for the variety.
  • Trim stems to 1/2 to 3/4 inch.
  • Clean by wiping with soft, dry cloth.


  • Specimens fully mature, clean, and free of insect or disease damage, injury cracks, sunburn, or greening.
  • Clean by brushing lightly or washing to remove soil after tubers are dry. Do not scrub.


  • Deep, even color, thick-fleshed and heavy in weight for size of specimen.
  • Free of blemishes and dirt.
  • Trim stem to 2 inches.
  • Clean by wiping and polishing with a dry cloth or by washing if necessary.


  • Stalks at least 10 inches long and at least 1 inch across at the middle of the stalk.
  • Skin smooth and well-colored.
  • Trim leaves to 1 or 2 inches; trim base evenly.
  • Clean by wiping with a dry cloth or by washing, if necessary.

Squash, Summer

  • Soft rind (immature) and at prime eating stage.
  • Avoid over-mature, bruised, or misshapen specimens.
  • Leave 1 inch of evenly-trimmed stem attached.
  • Clean by wiping with soft, dry cloth or by washing, if necessary.

LettuceSquash, Winter

  • Outer rind hard and firm.
  • Avoid immature, cracked, or split specimens.
  • Leave 1 inch of stem attached.
  • Clean by brushing or wiping with soft, dry cloth, or b washing, if necessary.


  • Firm and free of cracks, blossom-end rot, insect, disease, or mechanical damage.
  • Ripe tomatoes should be in prime condition for slicing; avoid overripe fruit.
  • Green tomatoes should be entirely green on the same plate.
  • Do not exhibit red and green tomatoes on the same plate.
  • Display with or without stems.
  • Clean by wiping with a moist cloth.


  • Roots at least 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Trim tops to 1 inch; leave taproot 2 to 3 inches long.
  • Clean by washing.


  • Typical of variety in shape and color.
  • Mature but not overripe; should have bright or velvety appearance.
  • Ground spot should be yellowish in color and not white or pale green.
  • Leave stem 1 inch long.
  • Clean by wiping with a moist cloth or by washing, if necessary.