Growers call desert lettuce crops best in years

11/13/2009 03:00:00 PM
Don Schrack

“This just may be our best desert deal ever,” he said. “We’ve made the upgrades that should further improve quality and consistency.”

The California harvest will overlap with the company’s Yuma lettuce deal, scheduled to begin Nov. 16, McBride said.

When the desert harvest wraps up next year, Coastline plans to go to Huron in mid-April before returning to Salinas in late April or early May, he said.

Iceberg and romaine on top

The desert-grown lettuce from Salinas-based Diamond Produce LLC is 100% iceberg, said salesman Oscar Miranda.

Planting for the winter crop was increased slightly this season, he said.

The Diamond Produce fall harvest started in Yuma with packing and shipping of the company’s California desert lettuce scheduled to begin in mid-December and to continue through February, Miranda said.

When the California crop winds down, the company will return to Yuma for another two or three weeks of harvesting, he said.

Now entering its sixth winter season, the baby iceberg crop continues to find loyal fans among the foodservice targeted customer base at Boggiatto Produce Inc., Salinas.

“It didn’t take the industry by storm at the beginning, but baby iceberg has made good inroads with many chefs,” said Michael Boggiatto, president. “It’s been like sand piling up on a beach a grain at a time. Now, we have a small beachhead.”

As a result, Boggiatto planted more acreage in baby iceberg and in romaine for the winter season, he said.

Romaine is the company’s biggest winter crop in the Imperial Valley, but also in the Boggiatto leafy green inventory for the winter are red and green leaf lettuce.

Harvesting of the Boggiatto lettuce crops is scheduled to begin in late November and continue into early April.

“That gives us a little overlap with the Salinas deal,” Boggiatto said.

Planting acreage has been increased for the winter leafy green crops at Holtville-based Imperial Sales, said owner Cliff Smith.

Iceberg and romaine will lead the lettuce category for Imperial Sales, he said.

Weather permitting, harvesting will begin immediately after Thanksgiving, Smith said.

Green Valley Farms Inc. has cut back slightly on its winter leafy green plantings, said Cal Mason, administrator of the company’s Brawley cooling facility, but all of the varieties are still in the fold.

Harvesting and field packing of the company’s iceberg and mixed lettuce varieties will likely begin between Nov. 23 and Nov. 27, Mason said, and will continue into early April.

Due to a reporter’s error. this story originally misnamed Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms’ sales manager Gary Silacci.


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