Best Dish in the Vegetable Section

11th Jan 2001

As a result of the four articles I wrote on judging last year, I have since had a large response to them and one question in particualr seems to be unclear in the mind of many exhibitors, show schedule writers, show secretaries and judges. That question is regarding the best dish in the vegetable section and best exhibit in the vegetable section depending on how the show organisers have worded their schedule. The first thing to remember is that the show schedule, however badly written you might think it is, it is most certainly the bible on the day and has to be followed to the letter.

Jermor Shallot
Own Reselection (White Beans)
Prize-winning exhibition vegetable seeds give you the advantage whether growing for show or just for the family. You can see our range of top quality selected seeds and horticultural sundries in our online shop

"The Best Dish in Show" and "The Best Exhibit in Show"

The point to remember is that there is a vast difference between 'the best dish in show' and the ‘best exhibit in show" and the controversy arises, more often than not when collections are in consideration. Very often when the schedule asks for best exhibit in the show, the organisers specifically exclude collections from consideration, that then leaves the judge to select the best single dish from single dish classes in the show. Other times the collections are not barred from consideration and they very often win the best exhibit award.

When the schedule asks for best dish then the controversy starts once more with collections, can a collection rightly be considered for best dish in the vegetable section or can a dish from a collection be considered for best dish in the section amongst of course all the other worthy contenders from the single classes. The big question here is; what constitutes a dish and what constitutes an exhibit.

"Dish" and "Collection"

If we refer to the RHS Horticultural Show Handbook we find a definition for both ‘Dish' and ‘Collection'. ‘A dish in Horticultural show schedules is a specified number or quantity of a fruit or vegetable constituting one item which may be displayed on a table or on a stand or on a receptacle of any material and of any shape. Unless specially permitted by the schedule, a dish must consist one cultivar (variety) only'

A collection is ‘An assembly of kinds and or cultivars (varieties) of plants, flowers, fruits or vegetables in one exhibit'. It therefore follows that three leeks tied to a backboard or three celery tired to a backboard on a collection constitutes a dish within an assembly of vegetables, just as a single dish of tomatoes in a class. If the Show schedule therefore asks for the best dish of vegetable in the section or show as the case might be, then the judge would be perfectly within his rights to select one dish from a collection of say, six kinds, for that award and not to select the collection itself for the best dish award as the collection is merely a group or assembly of individual dishes.

If however the schedule states ‘The best exhibit in a section, then, provided that the schedule does not specifically exclude collections, a collection can be considered by the judge for the best exhibit award. It is therefore very important that show schedule compilers and secretaries know what they mean when they actually make a stipulation regarding best dish or best exhibit in their schedules.

"Best in Show"

Some shows actually stipulate just the words ‘Best in Show' and this can be a nightmare, particularly at shows where you have all sorts of different classes varying from cakes to flowers to jams to handicraft and vegetables. How on earth is a judge supposed to find the best exhibit between a dish of three exhibition onions and a decorated chocolate cake or a pot of jam? Please show schedule writers, do not ask for best dish in a mixed show, it's an impossible task for judges to decide on. It does say quite clearly in the RHS Handbook that ‘It is better that awards are given for ‘Best dish or exhibit in vegetable' or ‘Best dish or exhibit in flower' and so on.

Where the schedule still insists on the Best in Show award, then Individual dishes in collection classes are not eligible for Best in Show award as they cannot be considered as exhibits in themselves, only as part of an exhibit.

Choosing the Correct Words

It's all rather confusing isn't it but really it's quite simple provided words are used to mean what the show organisers intend. Choosing the correct words in show schedules is vitally important and the perennial one of using the words Should and Must in the wrong context is always causing problems for judges. Please remember show organisers that the word ‘Should' leaves what follows optional, ‘Must' makes what follows obligatory. For example, in a class of pickling shallots, the schedule may say that the shallots ‘should' pass through a 30mm ring. In this instance if one shallot failed to pass through then the judge can use his own discretion and may allow the dish to be in contention for an award. However if that word ‘Should' was to be changed to ‘Must' then the judge has no discretionary powers whatsoever and the dish would have to be excluded from any award as it was ‘not according to schedule'

This is the ideal time for all schedule writers or show secretaries to have a look at their last years schedule and if it needs re vamping or needs to be written clearer then please do it now. It can save embaresment to all those associated with the show.


One question in particualr seems to be unclear in the mind of many exhibitors, show schedule writers, show secretaries and judges. That question is regarding the best dish in the vegetable section and best exhibit in the vegetable section depending on how the show organisers have worded their schedule.
Other 2001 articles of interest

· Growing Giant Cabbages
· Concentrating on three...
· Staging a Collection
· Laying the Foundations for Next...
· Planting Show Potatoes for...
· Producing Leek Bulbils for next...
· Criteria for Stump Root Carrots
· Growing for Showing - Parsnips...
· Best head of Leek Bulbils or...
· Leeks and Onions
· Vegetables grown to Show...
· Blanch Leeks
· Sowing Dates Used By Showmen
· Runner Beans, Peas and Judging...
· Up-date on the Leeks and Onions

View All Articles from 2001
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Prize-winning exhibition vegetable seeds give you the advantage whether growing for show or just for the family. You can see our range of top quality selected seeds and horticultural sundries in our online shop