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When is a Bushel of Produce a True Bushel?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2009

You're at a local farmers market and see a bushel of fruits or vegetables, and you may start to wonder if it truly is a bushel.

A bushel of produce, says David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center, is a bushel when it meets the legal standard of volume of dry measurement containing four pecks, 32 quarts or 2,150.42 cubic inches. Anything less than this volume is not a bushel, and consumers should be aware of small containers or amounts advertised as bushels.

In other words, a bushel is an amount based on volume and not weight. It's what the box or basket will hold and not how much it weighs. That can be a big difference.

Years ago, laws included legal weights for bushels of commodities. As varieties and grade sizes changed, so did the density and weight of the produce. Many of the legal weights became outdated, and today produce may be sold by volume in open containers and net weight in closed containers.

The bushel container is a carryover from days of yesteryear when the bushel was a convenient volume of packing and use. Now it is less common because of the demand for smaller containers and improved quality control. But many farm markets, roadside stands and terminal markets still sell by the bushel in baskets, boxes and hampers.

Commonly accepted weights in pounds per bushel for fruits and vegetables in Illinois are apples, 42-48; grapes, 44-50; peaches, 48-52; pears, 48-50; green beans, 28-30; cucumbers, 48-50; greens, 18-20; and tomatoes, 50-60. Consumers buying by the pound can convert to bushel prices by using these weights.

Other common produce containers for volume sales are pecks, quarts and pints. Most of the pecks of fruit should weight 10-12 pounds, whereas pecks of vegetables are quite variable due to differences in texture and weight of the crop. Quarts of small fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries weigh 1.4 to 1.5 pounds.

Source: David J. Robson, Extension Specialist, PSEP, drobson@uiuc.edu