Other than decay affecting the curds, keeping an eye out for discolored curds is the most common defect you will find. The longer the caulifloweris stored, the more likely the curds will oxidize, and discolor. The discoloration will appear in different stages, first appearing as a light tan or brown, then advancing in size and the color will change to a dark brown to black in color.
Although the dicoloration is harmless, it does affect the marketability. The discoloration is also a prelude to decay, which is a soft, mushy type decay affecting the curds.
The cauliflower shown above depicts the numerous brown discolored spots affecting the curds. Be careful to check for any decay, softly touching the discolored spots with the tip of your knife. If you find the discolored curds you now have to determine if the discoloration is a defect. The USDA Inspection Instructions do provide some specific guidelines:
- Score as damage, dark brown or black spots when a single spot exceeds 5/8 inch in diameter, as serious damage when the spot exceeds 1-1/4 inches in diameter on a cauliflower 6 inches in diameter (correspondingly lesser or greater areas on smaller or larger head).
- Score numerous small (5/8 inch or less in diameter) dark brown or black spots as damage or serious damage when they detract from the appearance to a greater extent than that allowed for a single spot.
- Any other shades of discoloration lighter than dark brown or black shall be scored as damage or serious damage when the appearance is affected to a greater extent than that permitted for dark brown or black discoloration.
Let’s walk through the scoring guideline, using the cauliflower shown above.
Are there any spots larger than 5/8 inch in diameter or larger, or do they aggregate (all the spots combined) ? All the spots are less than 5/8 inch, but by combining the spots they easily aggregate more than 5/8 inch.
Are there any spots that would be considered as dark brown or black? No, these spots are lighter in color. Therefore the discolored curds is not a defect……right? Wrong.
So now comes the subjective part…..do the numerous brown discolored spots, aggregating more than 5/8 inch, affect the appearance to a greater extent than that permitted for dark brown or black discoloration? Yes, absolutely, so this cauliflower would be scored as damage, a defect of the U.S. No. 1 Grade.
This cauliflower is more cut and dry.
Is the discoloration dark brown or black? Yes!
Is the discolored area larger than 5/8 inch in diameter? Yes!
Therefore this cauliflower would be scored as a defect, simply by measuring the discolored spot, not subject to judgment or subjectivity.