Asparagus

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  1. General Requirements
    • 1.1 Grades
    • 1.2 Properly Packed and Marked
    • 1.3 Sampling Procedures
  2. Size
    • 2.1 Length Requirements
    • 2.2 Diameter Requirements
  3. Colour
  4. Cleanliness
  5. Permanent Defects
    • 5.1 Broken Asparagus
    • 5.2 Insects
    • 5.3 Seedy Appearance
    • 5.4 Shape
    • 5.5 Trimming Other
    • 5.6 Permanent Defects
  6. Condition Defects
    • 6.1 Crushed Asparagus
    • 6.2 Decay
    • 6.3 Freezing Damage
    • 6.4 Freshness
    • 6.5 Shooting
    • 6.6 Spreading
    • 6.7 Other Condition Defects
  7. Tolerances

1. General Requirements

1.1 Grades

  • The grades for asparagus are Canada No. 1, Canada No. 1 Slender and Canada No. 2.
  • These grade standards are for green asparagus. The Regulations do not provide grade standards for white asparagus. This means that white asparagus can be imported, exported or traded interprovincially without grade or inspection requirements.

1.2 Properly Packed and Marked

1.2.1 Properly Packed

  • By Regulations "properly packed" means that when the asparagus are packed in a package, they are not so packed as to be slack or over pressed or otherwise in a condition likely to result in damage during handling or while in transit.
  • To describe the tightness of the packages, the following terms will be used:

Very Tight: Very tight means the extreme condition described under "tight" that is too tight which may result in damage such as crushing of the stalks or breaking of tips.

Tight: Tight means sufficiently packed to prevent movement of the asparagus within the package and tightly packed without causing damage to the stalks.

Fairly Tight: Fairly tight means the pack is not ideal but is between "tight" and "slack", however, the asparagus are tight enough to prevent movement within the packages. Under normal handling conditions, no damage will be done to the stalks.

Slack: Slack means the package is clearly not full and a free movement of the asparagus is possible or evident. Damage to stalks is possible. It is also important that the inspector verify the net weight of the content as it may be underweight.

1.2.2 Properly Marked

The general requirements on marking are prescribed in Part III of the Regulations and has to be provided either directly on the package or a tag attached thereto. The above marking requirements do not apply to asparagus that is packaged in a wrapper or confining band less than 13 mm (1/2 inch) in width.

1.3 Sampling Procedures

Asparagus are inspected by count. Inspectors must examine 100 specimens, by selecting them at random from one end of the package. In the case of bunched asparagus, a few bunches must be taken at random in each package and be detached to allow for a sampling of 100 specimens. In all cases, if the package contains less than 100 specimens, inspect all the asparagus in the package.

2. Size

All Canadian grades of asparagus must be sized in terms of length and diameter.

2.1 Length Requirements

Canada No. 1 and Canada No. 1 Slender

  • the minimum length of stalks is 140 mm (5 1/2 inches);
  • there is no maximum length of stalks, however, when they are packed in a pyramid-type container holding 9.07 kg (20 lb.) of asparagus, they must have a maximum length of 230 mm (9 inches); and
  • when stalks are packed in containers, they cannot vary more than 38 mm (1 1/2 inches) in length

Canada No. 2

  • the minimum length of stalks is 140 mm (5 1/2 inches); and
  • there is no maximum length of stalks, however, when they are packed in a pyramid-type container holding 9.07 kg (20 lb.) of asparagus, they must have a maximum length of 230 mm (9 inches)

2.2 Diameter Requirements

By Regulations, diameter means the greatest width at right angles to the longitudinal axis.
The diameter of a stalk shall be measured at a point approximately 25 mm (1 inch) from the butt.

Canada No. 1 Slender

  • minimum diameter of stalk is 8 mm (5/16 inch);
  • maximum diameter of stalk is 9 mm (23/64 inch).

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 2

  • minimum diameter of stalk is 8 mm (5/16 inch);
  • there is no maximum diameter.

Canada No. 1 Medium or Canada No. 2 Medium

  • minimum diameter of stalk is 8 mm (5/16 inch);
  • maximum diameter of stalk is 14 mm (9/16 inch).

Canada No. 1 Large or Canada No. 2 Large

  • minimum diameter of stalk is 13 mm (1/2 inch
  • maximum diameter of stalk is 21 mm (13/16 inch).

Canada No. 1 Jumbo or Canada No. 2 Jumbo

  • minimum diameter of stalk is 19 mm (3/4 inch);
  • there is no maximum diameter.

Note for paragraph C to E: the designation of the diameter of the stalk shall be used directly in connection to the grade name. This diameter designation cannot be used separately from the grade name.

3. Colour

All Canadian grades require that asparagus have not more than 15% of each stalk with a white portion not including the faint pink or purple colour on the stalk. It is natural for asparagus to have purple tips. A purple colour at the base of the stalk is usually associated with cold weather.

Asparagus stalks which have more than 15% white colour, shall be scored as "lack of green colour" and shall be scored as permanent defect. Remember that faint pink or purple colour will be considered as part of the characteristic green colour.

4. Cleanliness

Although not mentioned specially in the Regulations, cleanliness requirement is important. Asparagus stalks will be scored in:

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender

  • when upon casual examination, there is sufficient amount of dirt or foreign matter on the tips; or
  • when the butts or the lower white portions of the stalk is showing slight amount of dirt.

Canada No. 2

  • when dirt on the tips is readily apparent;
  • when the stalk is badly smeared with dirt or foreign matter, or
  • when the stalk is caked with mud.

5. Permanent Defects

5.1 Broken Asparagus

Broken asparagus shall be scored as broken in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender

  • when the stalk or the tip is broken.

Canada No. 2

  • when the stalk is broken; or
  • when the break of the tip is bigger than 6 mm (1/4 inch) in diameter.

Note: Score fresh breaks as condition defects at destination.

5.2 Insects

There is a wide variety of insects that feed on asparagus causing malformations. Asparagus beetles (the Common and Twelve Spotted) are the most common and troublesome insect pests on asparagus. Damage is caused by adults and larvae feeding on green fern and spear tissue throughout the season. Producing scars and spear malformation, beetles contaminate asparagus with eggs and excrement, rendering the spears unmarketable.

Plant bugs Tarnished and Alfalfa feed on asparagus spears by using their piercing and sucking mouthparts to inject saliva into the plant and extract plant sap. Such feeding causes distortion, wilting, and/or dieback of fern spears. Puncture marks are often visible at or below the area of distortion.

Various species of Cutworm larvae feed on asparagus spears either above or below the soil line. Affected spears and ferns are malformed, usually curving towards the injured side, or have areas of tissue chewed or severed off.

The European Asparagus Aphid feeds exclusively on asparagus, injecting toxic saliva as it feeds on plant sap causing growth abnormalities and stunting.

5.2.1 Insect Damage

Score insect damage in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when it occurs on the green portion of the asparagus and

  • it covers an area of more than 6 mm (1/4 inch); or
  • it covers areas of more than 10 mm (3/8 inch) in aggregate.

when it occurs on the white portion of the asparagus and it covers areas of more than 19 mm (3/4 inch) in aggregate.

Canada No. 2
when it occurs on the green portion of the asparagus and

  • it covers an area of more than 10 mm (3/8 inch); or
  • it covers areas of more than 13 mm (1/2 inch) in aggregate.

when it occurs on the white portion of the asparagus and it affects seriously the appearance or edible quality of the asparagus.

5.2.2 Presence of insect

Score the presence of insect in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when more than 2 aphids or thrips are present on stalk.

Canada No. 2
when more than 5 aphids or thrips are present on the stalk.

Note: Live insects found at destination shall be scored as condition defect.

5.3 Seedy Appearance

After a day or two of hot weather, asparagus tips that are fairly compact may have greenish "seeds" around the bracts. Score defect in

Canada No. 1
when the "seeds" are large, green and numerous enough to materially affect the appearance or edibility of the asparagus.

Canada No. 1 Slender
when the "seeds" are large, green and numerous enough to seriously affect the appearance or edibility of the asparagus.

Canada No. 2
when the "seeds" are discoloured.

5.4 Shape

The characteristic shape of asparagus is that of a spear or pencil. Misshapen or crooked stalks may be caused by an injury to the side of a growing stalk. The growth directly above the injury is retarded, whereas growth on the opposite side continues resulting in a crooked or curled stalk. Hard or poorly tilled soil, sticks, stones, old asparagus stalks, cut or careless cutting are frequent causes which will injure tender shoots. A driving wind or frost can cause stalks to grow crooked. Dry winds are detrimental to the proper maturing of the stalks, causing them to bend over and grow into the wind forming crooked stalks or fish hooks. The explanation for bending in the wind is that one side of the stalk dries out retarding the growth on that side, while the other side keeps lengthening, bringing about a curvature of the stalk.

Score misshapen specimens in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender

  • when the tip is slightly curling or crooking at an angle of more than 45 from the stalk
  • when the stalk has a double appearance. Usually a double specimen has a hollow space running up through the centre of the stalk. This type of misshapen defect is also called "splits stalk"; o
  • when the appearance of the stalk is materially affected.

Canada No. 2

  • when the tips are curving at an angle of more than 90 from the stalk; or
  • when the appearance of the stalk is seriously affected.

5.5 Trimming

All Canadian grades require that the asparagus be trimmed so that the butts of the stalks are squarely, smoothly and evenly cut and are free from stringy or frayed ends.

Squarely cut means that the stalks could be cut to a maximum angle of 30 to the bottom of the package when the stalks are perpendicular to the bottom of the package.

5.6 Other Permanent Defects

Other permanent defects which are not described in Section 5.1 to 5.5 or a combination thereof shall be scored in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when defects are materially affecting the appearance, edibility or shipping quality of the asparagus;

Canada No. 2
when defects are seriously affecting the appearance, edibility or shipping quality of the asparagus. 

6. Condition Defects

6.1 Crushed Asparagus

Crushed asparagus is scored in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when the green portion of the stalk is crushed and results in more than 5% waste by weight;

Canada No. 2
when the green portion of the stalk is crushed and results in more than 10% waste by weight.

6.2 Decay

All grades require that asparagus be free from decay. Decay means any soft, watersoaked, mushy, or leaking breakdown of the tissue from whatever cause. In some cases there may be a collapse of cell tissues resulting in flattened or creased areas. Decay may occur anywhere on the spears, but is prevalent in areas where mechanical damage has occurred or where moisture can collect.

6.3 Freezing Damage

Freezing damage of asparagus occurring in storage is usually quite serious, not only on account of discolouration but on account of secondary decay which is sure to follow. Freezing damage of asparagus shows watersoaked, somewhat transparent areas. The epidermis is often blistered and peels off. Any amount of freezing damage will be scored in all grades.

6.4 Freshness

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
These two grades require that asparagus be fresh. This means that the individual stalk is not wilted, shrivelled or flabby.

Canada No. 2
Although the Regulations do not specifically mention freshness for this grade, stalks must not be wilted, shrivelled or flabby as to seriously affect its appearance, edibility or shipping quality.

6.5 Shooting

Asparagus packed with butts on damp moisture pads will sometimes grow from one centimetre to several centimetres after being packed and shipped. The warmer the temperature, the faster the growth, thus this condition will usually be found in the upper layers of a load.

Shooting asparagus shall be scored in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when stalks, in a package, vary more than 38 mm (1 1/2 inches) in length.

Canada No. 2
when stalks extend through the top of the crates, this condition will be described.

Note: Describe the number of crates affected in general terms, the number of stalks, by count, exceeding the 38 mm (1 1/2 inches) requirement or the height above the crates.

6.6 Spreading

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
The Regulations require that these two grades be free from spreading. This means that a stalk will be scoreable when the curds are elongated to the extent that they are branching out from the centre of the stalk.

Canada No. 2
Although the Regulations do not specifically mention spreading for this grade, stalks will be scored when the bracts are open on more than 1/3 of the length of the stalk.

6.7 Other Condition Defects

Other condition defects which are not described in sections 6.1 to 6.6 or a combination thereof shall be scored in

Canada No. 1 or Canada No. 1 Slender
when defects are materially affecting the appearance, edibility or shipping quality of the asparagus;

Canada No. 2
when defects are seriously affecting the appearance, edibility or shipping quality of the asparagus.  

7. Tolerances

The grade standards are deemed to be met when not more than

10 percent of the asparagus by count have defects, if not more than

  • one percent is affected by decay, and
  • five percent have the same defect other than decay;

10 percent of the asparagus by count fails to meet the diameter or length requirements; and
10 percent of the containers contain stalks that exceed the permitted length variation.

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