With a shortage of cucumbers due to the weather conditions, you have probably noticed a difference in the quality of cucumbers at your warehouse. You may have noticed a few more scars, and misshapen cucumbers. Although these defects do detract from the appearance of the cucumbers, cucumbers that are scarred or misshapen will not become worse…..meaning the scars will not increase in size, nor will the cucumber become ‘more’ misshapen. On the other hand, there is a very common condition defect that you most likely have seen, shriveled ends, which do become worse over time. The shriveled ends will increase in size and depth, and cucumbers that showed no evidence of shriveled ends may develop shriveled ends.
As you can see from the cucumbers shown above, the shriveled ends take on different looks, or different degrees of shriveling. The USDA offers no specific guidelines as to how shriveled ends are to be scored, or not be scored as defects. There are no visual aids to assist inspectors with this defect. I can tell you from experience, as a former trainer for the USDA, there is great confusion among USDA inspectors with scoring this defect. Some inspectors would treat this defect as a “free from” defect, meaning if they saw any amount of shriveled end, they would score it as a defect. While other inspectors would steadfastly refuse to score the cucumbers with shriveled ends, unless they affected an area of at least 1 inch in diameter on the cucumber. The discussions would be quite lively, to say the least.
I can pass along the scoring guideline that was agreed upon by most, if not all inspectors throughout the country.
- The top cucumber would not be scored as a defect.
- The bottom cucumber would be scored as defect, as damage.
- The cucumber pictured in the middle was the most controversial. The majority of the inspectors did agree to score this cucumber as damage by shriveled ends….but some argued they would never score this as a defect.
By having no specific scoring guidelines the USDA surely lacks uniformity amongst their inspectors with scoring this defect.
But with no official guideline in place, remember that the majority of USDA inspectors are scoring cucumbers with shriveled ends that have same amount as the middle cucumber, or worse. Hopefully this will help you with your cucumber inspections.