MR. GREENS "FRESH TIPS"
January 11, 2002
Our last PRODUCE MAN PUZZZZLE dealt with citrus: What was the first citrus to be patented? It's hard to imagine a citrus being patented. Like a new machine or a new invention. At the time, this new citrus was so unique and so different, you wouldn't think of not patenting it. Grapefruit came to the US in the 1840s, first to Florida. Grapefruit at this time, were white and full of seeds. The first seedless grapefruit appeared in a Florida orchard in 1890. In the 1920s, some bare rooted grapefruit trees were shipped via railroad to Texas, thus beginning the Texas industry. It was in Texas that the first red seedless grapefruit was discovered, in an orchard near McAllen, Texas. This "Red Ruby Seedless" grapefruit became the banner of the grapefruit industry. It was so unique and so good, it became the first patented citrus. We are enjoying wintertime citrus so this week's PUZZZZLE still deals with citrus: Who planted the first citrus tree in California? See next week's "Fresh Tips" for the answer.
CAULIFLOWER, LETTUCE: Temperatures in Yuma, Arizona are finally
getting back to more normal levels for this time of year, around 80
degrees during the day and 60s at night. In December, temperatures were
dipping into the low 30s, bringing production and growth to a near screeching
halt. Production in some areas was well below half of normal because
of the temperatures and lack of harvest time during the day. Some growers
were only getting less than 5 hours of picking time a day. Normal picking
time is about 8 - 10 hours a day. As a result of warmer temps, many
fields are coming into production all at once. With typical slow January
demand and greatly increased production, we should start seeing much
lower prices. Broccoli and Cauliflower will be the first to drop in
pricing. Lettuce will be a little slower in dropping, mainly because
of stronger processed demand.
-POOH CHANGES DIET: Winnie the Pooh is kicking the honey habit. The paunchy bear is changing his diet in 2002, to include more fruits and vegetables. He particularly has fallen in love with Strawberries. "Because they are so sweet and remind me of honey," Pooh says. Like the rotund Pooh, Americans are fatter than ever before. The fattest people of any industrialized nation. We have the cheapest produce, the best produce, the safest produce, the most diverse produce, and yet, Americans eat less than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Even in California, where over half of America's produce is produced, fruit and vegetable per capita consumption actually went down. One main reason people are eating fewer fruits and vegetables is that more people are eating out at fast food restaurants more often. You would be very hard pressed to get your five servings of fruits and vegetables at a fast food restaurant. Studies continue to show that almost 1/3 of all cancer deaths could be eliminated each year if consumers simply exercised more, cut down on sweets and ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If restaurants continue serving larger portions, at least serve larger portions of salads and vegetable side dishes rather than meat or pasta. Your mother was right: "Eat your veggies." And Pooh is right: "Strawberries are best."
--TOMATOES: You're seeing more red in the price these days, not in the color. We said way back in November that Hurricane Juliette, which skirted along the west coast of Mexico in late October, was going to disrupt harvest schedules of tomatoes in Mexico. Indeed it has. Tomato supplies have been very tight for vine-ripes, mature greens, cherry, roma and grape. Usually by late January, harvest in both Florida and Mexico reaches peak production. That is, provided the weather cooperates. One year ago, deep freezes reached into the deep southern parts of Florida disrupting crops and causing tremendous damage. Meteorologists have not predicted such a deep freeze this year, but colder weather has slowed growth, color and production. Most of Florida's tomato production will be coming from the southwest region, which includes Immokalee and Naples. The cold has delayed good production by as much as 2 - 3 weeks. Meteorologists are predicting colder than normal temperatures in this region, perhaps dipping as low as 32 degrees. Watch the weather in Florida over the next week or so. Warmer weather will help cool these hot tomato prices.
--GRAPES: Prices should remain high for green and red grapes from the Southern Hemisphere. Most are coming in from the Copiapo Valley in Northern Chile. South African fruit is also expected to start hitting U.S. ports, but not until late January, almost two weeks later than normal. That should keep prices a little higher than normal, especially because there is less stonefruit available for competitive sale. Grape shipments to Europe from South Africa began in mid-December, but volume is still too low for North American shipments. Growers in South Africa tell us that supplies are delayed because vineyards in the Northern cape region, in Orange River Valley, saw about 8 inches of rain along with cold temperatures.