Heirloom tomato supplies out of California are ramping up.
JC Myers of Fresh Alliance, LLC in Carmel, CA notes that its Swank Farms organic crop in Hollister, CA is in production on more than 20 varieties in the field. Consumer and chef favourites, notes Myers, are the Berkeley Tie Dye, Cherokee Purple, Chocolate Stripe, Brandywine, Pineapple, Marvel Stripe and Kellogg’s Breakfast.
Dick Swank of Swank Farms in Hollister, CA.
Myers does note that overall acreage is lower this year since markets were challenging in 2019. He adds that California produces the most significant commercial volume at this time of year of conventional and organic heirloom tomatoes. “Mexico continues to stretch out their conventional growing season and then of course, there are thousands of home gardens full of wonderful heirlooms,” he says.
Myers says that while current market pricing is significantly better than last year’s pricing given there was too much overlap of supplies, 2020’s pricing and demand have remained steady. “The next four to six weeks are fantastic opportunities to promote organically grown California heirloom tomatoes,” says Myers.
The growth in heirlooms
He notes that as a commodity, heirlooms continue to develop. Swank Farms grew its first heirloom, the Brandywine, back in 1987 and transitioned to organic in 2006. “Over that time consumer desire for a great-tasting tomato has only increased. Competition from the quality greenhouse growers of non-heirlooms, but all the same, very good tasting varieties and improved quality from south of the border, gives the consumer an opportunity to eat a decent tomato year-round.”
Heirloom tomatoes from Swank Farms.
Part of that development as a commodity includes rotating two or three varieties in and out of the heirloom tomato line up regularly but also continuing to tackle shipping challenges. “The best-tasting heirloom is going to be picked ripe which makes for a challenge to ship long distance,” says Myers. “We have national demand for them but we made an intentional decision to stay within a second morning delivery range.”