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After a long winter and spring without Florida tomatoes, U.S. shoppers can now enjoy what is being touted as the best tasting crop in many seasons. Florida tomatoes are back in volume and reasonably priced. This is good news for supermarket shoppers, who have had to do without fresh Florida-grown tomatoes all winter.
The Florida Tomato Committee, a tomato marketing organization, estimates that 80 percent of the state’s winter crop was wiped out by freezing temperatures that lasted several weeks. The sustained cold temperatures further delayed spring volumes. The devastation to Florida’s winter and early spring tomato crop made for a unique situation in the U.S., with retailers and restaurants having to lean on shipments of tomatoes from other sources in recent months. To date this season, Florida tomato growers have packed 52 percent of the total packed last year during same time period. The bulk of Florida’s tomato shipments are now coming from the Palmetto-Ruskin growing region where plants were set in February and March, after the worst of the freeze conditions passed.
Growers who’ve been hoping and praying for cooperative temperatures and weather since the big freeze couldn’t be more proud of this spring crop. “The quality is excellent and the flavor is absolutely phenomenal – best in years,” says Reggie Brown, manager of the Florida Tomato Committee. “We want our neighbors throughout the southeast and the rest of the country to know that we are back. Look and ask for Florida tomatoes, homegrown right here in your own country – you will not be disappointed.”
Florida is the nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes. With almost every southern county in the state cultivating tomatoes, Florida produces virtually all the fresh-market, field-grown tomatoes in the U.S. from October through June each year, and accounts for about 50 percent of all fresh tomatoes produced domestically.