Southern Specialties markets heirloom tomatoes from Guatemala under the Southern Selects brand. ( Courtesy Southern Specialties )

Growers of heirloom tomatoes in Guatemala are looking to the U.S. as a growth market.

Members of the Guatemala Produce Trade Association who grow heirloom tomatoes, are highlighting the year-round availability and variety of the specialty tomatoes.

Southern Specialties, Pompano Beach, Fla., has imported the greenhouse-grown Guatemalan tomatoes for about five years, according to a news release from the association. The heirlooms come in a single-layer of large tomatoes, with about four varieties for each pack, and the company also importsmulti-colored baby heirlooms and yellow beefsteak tomatoes. They are marketed under the company’s Southern Selects brand.

“It started as a boutique program that has experienced year-over-year growth since inception among both retail and foodservice,” Charlie Eagle, Southern Specialties’ vice president of business development, said in the release.

Crystal Valley Foods, Miami, has been working with a Guatemalan grower for three years.

“We tested over 40 varieties in a dedicated greenhouse to come up with the baby heirlooms that had the best flavor and shelf life to use in our mix,” Katiana Valdes, Crystal Valley’s marketing director, said in the release. “The climate in the region allows for high quality, flavorful tomatoes to be grown year-round in Guatemala.”

Crystal Valley offers one-pint clamshells of baby heirlooms, and this fall plans to offer a 10-pound single-layer case of Guatemalan heirloom tomatoes.

“In addition to maintaining rigid quality and food safety programs, (the growers) also regularly visit operations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to keep abreast of advances in greenhouse agriculture techniques that impact tomato quality and flavor,” Valdes said in the release.

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