“This is a good fruit as far as pollination goes…if you look at the spot you’re still at a fifty cent piece…but because of the size of the squash…it would be a number 2.” Scott Jerrell.

We talked about grading a little bit in our pervious episode/blog and will discuss it in greater detail in regards to Deana’s acorn squash.

Click here to view the USDA webpage about grades and standards. At the bottom of the page, you will find countless vegetables and their grading standards. For winter squash, the grading is as follows…

U.S. No. 1 consists of squash or pumpkins, which meet the following requirements:

  1. Basic requirements:
  2. Similar varietal characteristics;
  3. Well matured; and,

iii. Not broken or cracked.

  1. Free from: Soft rot or wet breakdown.
  2. Free from damage by:
  3. Scars;
  4. Dry rot;

iii. Freezing;

  1. Dirt;
  2. Disease;
  3. Insects; and,

vii. Mechanical or other means.

U.S. No. 2 consists of squash or pumpkins, which meet the following requirements:

  1. Basic requirements:
  2. Similar varietal characteristics;
  3. Fairly well matured; and,

iii. Not broken or cracked.

  1. Free from: Soft rot or wet breakdown.
  2. Free from serious damage by:
  3. Scars;
  4. Dry rot;

iii. Freezing;

  1. Dirt;
  2. Disease;
  3. Insects; and,

vii. Mechanical or other means.

A graded number 2 won’t be able to sell to Wholesale markets but are great for selling at farmers markets, donating to food banks, or selling to a value added producer. Anything worse than a number 2 would be considered a number 3, and is perfect for your compost or animal feed.

For this blog and our corresponding video, we will pick up right where we left off and will join Deana at the Appalachian Harvest food hub so she can wash, grade and package her product. If Deana didn’t live so close to Appalachian Harvest, she could do all of this on her farm. She would just need to follow GAP standards.

Whether you’re washing squash, tomatoes or cucumbers, the process is as follows. You will first need to rinse your produce. In a wash line, you have scrubs that you can use to help clean off any dirt caked on to your product. Once your product has been thoroughly washed and the dirt scrubbed off, it will go through a wash that contains a sanitation solution. After that, it will be washed again with just water and will start to dry.

Once your produce is drying, it’s time to start grading. The main difference between a number 1 and a number 2 would be damage, maturity and pollination. Both grades are free from serious damage by scars, dry rot, freezing, dirt, disease, insects and mechanical or other means. Both grades must also be free from any cracks or breaks in the produce.

Here, you can see acorn squash that has been graded as a number 1.

These are all well matured and are free of all forms of damage. Each of them has an orange spot of them that is no bigger than a 50-cent piece and are symmetrical since they were pollinated equally on both sides.

Here, you can see the acorn squash that has been graded as a number 2.

As you can see, these are not fully matured and suffer from minor damage from dirt. The one on the far left has a scar on it from growing on a rock. If this were insect damage instead, it would be considered a number 3. Anything worse looking than what you see here would be considered a number 3. We don’t recommend that you consume any number 3s; they are best as compost or maybe animal feed.

For both number 1s and number 2s, if you haven’t already done so, cut the stems to about an inch before you package them. This will help prevent them from damaging each other in transportation and turning those number 1s into number 2s. Once your stem has been cut, your produce washed and cleaned, gently place into the box, weigh it out to make sure it meets buyer specs and sticker it with your GAP compliant farm information. You’re good to go!

To stress the importance of gently placing your produce in the box, Deana explains to me that she’s been “handling them since they were seeds and when you get to this point, you want to make sure they don’t scratch each other.” Deana went on to explain that her acorn squash is money, and losing money because you carelessly boxed your produce can be avoided by slowing down and taking these last few steps carefully.

Derrick Von Kundra