Warm winter speeds lettuce deals

05/30/2012 01:21:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

CEDARVILLE, N.J. — The Garden State’s lettuce and leafy greens started about two weeks earlier than normal and grower-shippers say the season looks to be nearly perfect.

The region ships a variety of lettuces, leafy greens and herbs.

In early to mid-March, depending on growing conditions, the traditional overwintered items including curly and flat parsley, cilantro, spinach, leeks and radishes begin production.

April 10-15 typically sees the start of the heartier greens including collards, dandelion, kale, swiss chard, mustard, turnip, beets and kohlrabi.

In early May, romaine, red leaf, green leaf, escarole, endive, boston bibb and other lettuces begin production and hit volume by mid-May.

August heat brings a short gap but production resumes for the fall in September and runs through the first freeze.

Lettuce production began April 15 for Nardelli Bros. Inc., while the overwintered items of parsley, spinach and leeks started a month earlier.

Bill Nardelli, president, said warmer weather afforded for early plantings.

“We are off to a real good start on the early spring deal,” Nardelli said in mid-May.

“It has been a real good season. Texas and Florida wound up in a good time frame. The leafy greens are outstanding and we are seeing strong demand.”

Nardelli said a warmer than normal early spring growing season provided favorable growing conditions. He said the crops are coming along a little stronger than he anticipated and said a few light rains helped maturities.

Vince Consalo, president of Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., Vineland, called quality strong.

“They look gorgeous,” he said in mid-May. “They’re beautiful.”

R&R Flaim Next Generation Produce LLC, Vineland, began its lettuce production in late April, a week earlier than normal.

“Lettuce right now looks exceptionally nice,” Ryan Flaim said in mid-May. “The quality, body and weight are good and the overall appearance is excellent.”

Flaim in mid-May called demand strong but characterized prices as average.

Pricing

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in mid-May wasn’t reporting New Jersey prices.

It reported $12.45-13.85 for cartons of 24s of escarole from California’s central coast, while cartons of bunched 60s curly parsley from the same growing region were selling for $8.35-9.45.

Though other growers’ early season production started earlier than normal in April, Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. began its lettuce harvesting in early May with volume expected to hit in mid-May, said Tom Sheppard, president.


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