Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spotlight on..... Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most widely consumed produce items in North America. Our blog entry this week pays homage to this, and is all about the tomato, from less known facts, market info, and handling tips.

Did you know?

The tomato is also known as the love apple, and one pound of its seed can produce up to 140,000 plants. One of the most debated questions regarding the tomato is if it is a fruit or vegetable. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit of the vine. But many people think of it as a vegetable. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that for the purposed of levying a tariff, the tomato would be regarded as a vegetable.

A hothouse tomato only has 21 calories, is very high vitamin C and potassium, is a source of folacin and Vitamin A, and is fat free!

The Market

According to The Packer website, tomatoes tied with potatoes as the No. 1 most purchased vegetable in 2009. That's a jump from fourth spot in 2008. Leading the pack variety wise is the traditional round beefsteak, a popular choice for salads, recipes, and side dishes.

Florida is the United States largest producer of fresh tomatoes, with a season ranging from October to June, and with their season winding down, Florida is hoping for a better start to their season than what was seen in 2010.

Hothouse tomatoes are grown year round and offer complete climate control, maximum light conditions, and reduce pest and weather pressures. Notable greenhouse locations in North America include various areas in California (Oxnard, for example) and British Columbia (Delta, for example).

Handling Tips

Field tomatoes come out of the fields and go into "gas rooms" for ripening purposes. This is a critical process in the ripening stage and will determine how tomatoes are to be handled in transit.

Most customers will request colour and stage updates for each day of transit. Below are the colour and stage categories most commonly used:

  • Green - Stage 1 - The tomato surface is completely green. The shade of green may vary from light to dark.
  • Breakers - Stage 2 - There is a definite break of colour from green to tannish-yellow, pink, or red on 10% or less of the tomato surface
  • Turning - Stage 3 - Tannish-yellow, pink, or red colour shows on over 10% but no more than 30% of the surface of the tomato.
  • Pink - Stage 4 - Pink or red colour shows on over 30% but not more than 60% of the tomato surface.
  • Light Red - Stage 5 - Pinkish-red or red colour shows on over 60% but not more than 90% of the tomato surface
  • Red - Stage 6 - Red colour shows on over 90% of the tomato surface.

Load temperatures will be based on the initial colour report that must be provided at time of loading. All temperatures must be set to continuous. As tomatoes ripen while in transit, customer will often adjust temperature settings while product is in transit to achieve the desired ripeness upon delivery.

Proper handling of tomatoes during loading and while in transit will greatly assist in providing optimal product condition upon delivery.

Anything to add? Tell us what you think!! The tomato question endures, do you think of a tomato as a fruit or vegetable?

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