Desert vegetables, growers in winter doldrums

01/08/2014 04:55:00 PM
Mike Hornick

In the Coachella area, romaine that experienced tip burn and blistering during December freezes was either packed for romaine hearts or allowed to grow out so damaged outer leaves could peel off. That product is almost ready for the market, said John Burton, general manager for sales and cooler at Coachella, Calif.-based Peter Rabbit Farms.

“By next week we should be mostly grown out of the problems we faced in the deep freeze,” Burton said Jan. 6. “We’ve had freezes since then, but nothing like that. It was incredibly harsh for Southern California.”

“Romaine is typically the worst hit, but green and red leaf this year have equal opportunity to show ill effects from the weather,” Burton said. The weather ended his red bell pepper deal a week early; some other Coachella growers still had two to three weeks worth of that crop in the ground when the freeze hit.

Romaine carton 24s shipped for $6.50 to $8.95 out of Coachella and Imperial valleys Jan. 7, according to the USDA. In last year’s harsher weather, prices were $20 to $22.50.

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