Fall rain may cause spring leafy greens gap

11/11/2010 11:54:54 AM
Don Schrack

Overall, the total is down about 300 acres from the 2009 winter deal.

Rain caused only minor problems for Sahara Packing, Smith said.

“We didn’t lose any stands, but a couple of small blocks got hurt,” he said. “The early stuff looks very good.

Whatever rain damage occurred was in later plantings and could result in limited supplies in mid- to late January, Smith said.

Coachella-based Peter Rabbit Farms escaped weather damage, said John Burton, general manager.

“We had no ill effects from the rains, even though there was some localized flooding in some of the cities,” he said.

Spinach, which returned to the Peter Rabbit inventory last fall, is making an encore appearance.

“We used to do it years ago, but got away from it because the demand slipped,” Burton said. “The demand is coming back for loose spinach.”

The company plans to start harvesting spinach and leaf lettuce crops on Nov. 15, he said.

An emerging star is romaine hearts, as the commodity enters its third season on the Peter Rabbit price list.

“We have increased incrementally our acreage every year,” Burton said. “The demand has exceeded what we’ve been able to supply so far, and the commodity grows so well here in the Coachella Valley.”

Romaine hearts at foodservice oriented Boggiatto Produce Inc., Salinas, a company that pioneered romaine hearts in 1992, must now share the spotlight with a relative newcomer, iceberg babies.

“Our iceberg babies have every year continued to grow,” said Michael Boggiatto, president. “Our customers who are using the product are very consistent users.”

Now entering their seventh year in the Boggiatto Produce inventory, iceberg babies are specific varieties that tend to grow small heads, Boggiatto said.

“Then we harvest them slightly earlier than normal just to keep a consistent medium density to the heads,” he said.

Harvesting of the desert grown iceberg babies, romaine hearts and romaine is scheduled to begin the first week in December, Boggiatto said. To make certain there is no supply gap, the company overlaps its Salinas Valley harvest with the transition to the desert, he said, and uses the same approach for the desert to Salinas Valley switch.

Holtville-based Imperial Sales is holding steady this season on its iceberg and romaine acreage, said owner Cliff Smith, who said in late October that he was not yet ready to predict the quality of the crops.

“There are three things that determine the market in the Imperial Valley: weather, weather and weather,” he said.



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