Once cucumbers are harvested, a grading system set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is used to identify the cucumbers.
The following grades apply to pickling cukes:
- U.S. Grade No. 1: less than 11/16-inch diameter
- U.S. Grade No. 2: 11/16-inch diameter to less than 1 1/2-inch diameter
- U.S. Grade No. 3: 1 1/2-inch diameter to less than 2-inch diameter
- Oversized: 2-inch diameter and greater
Fruits larger than 2 inches in diameter are called “culls” or “oversize,” but they do not constitute an official grade. There are no length requirements for those fruits. In addition to the aforementioned grades, most buyers separate the fruit at the grading or receiving station into two or more subgrades.
When grading slicing cucumbers, the following USDA grades are used:
- U.S. Fancy: no more than 2 inches in diameter and no less than 6 inches long
- U.S. Extra No. 1: no more than 2 inches in diameter and no less than 6 inches long
- U.S. No. 1: no more than 2 inches in diameter and no less than 6 inches long
- U.S. No. 1 Small: no less than 1.5 or more than 2 inches in diameter, no length requirement
- U.S. No. 1 Large: no less than 2.25 inches in diameter and no less than 6 inches long
- U.S. No. 2: no less than 2 inches in diameter and no less than 5 inches long
There is no size difference between the first three grades used. NC State Extension specialists explain that this is because the difference between U.S. Fancy (the best grade), U.S. Extra No. 1 and U.S. No. 1 lies in quality (color, shape and defects allowed).
U.S. Extra No. 1 is a combination of at least 50 percent U.S. Fancy with the remainder being U.S. No. 1 grade. Size is the only difference between U.S. No. 1, U.S. No. 1 Small and U.S. No. 1 Large.
To maximize yield, harvesting should be done to obtain the maximum number of U.S. Fancy and U.S. No. 1 cucumbers per acre.
If proper agronomic techniques are used, based on the type of cucumber being grown, a proactive approach to controlling pests and weeds is taken and proper harvesting, cooling and grading are achieved, a great profit can be expected through cucumbers.