“Although all of our late September and October plant-ings are ruined, I’m optimistic that we’ll see a good crop by the end of February or beginning of March.” Chefs who are lost without this wonderful island fruit may see light at the end of the tunnel a few weeks before that, as Shintaku tries to fill restaurant orders in time for Valentine’s Day. “But maybe you shouldn’t print that,” he adds with a laugh at the end of our chat. “All the chefs will be calling Dean to get their orders in for February.” Hey, we all need a little hope — and I, for one, would settle for a huge, ripe Hauula tomato as my Valentine’s gift this year in place of any roses, chocolates or even dinner. Until then, I’m doing without. And if anyone can explain to me what a “slicing tomato” is, you know where to find me. Happy eating! E-mail Jo McGarry at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) " />

Enough Of Terrible Tomatoes

Jo McGarry
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - January 19, 2005
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If you’ve been searching for a great tasting tomato recently and can’t seem to find one — or are unwilling to pay almost surreal prices — then join the club. Most savvy shoppers are hesitating before they fill up with tomatoes this month, and some stores have even placed scales right next to the fruit, presumably to stop a shocking dose of sticker shock at the checkout. Since heavy rains hit the island of Oahu during the last weeks of October, local tomato growers have been plagued by their worst fear — ruined crops and the prospect of a long, hard winter.

“There’s a real shortage,” says Waimanalo grower (of Nalo Greens) and distributor of Hauula Tomatoes, Dean Okimoto.

“It is due to the bad weather, but it also coincides with a grower cut back at this time of year. The prices we’re seeing are higher than $4 for vine-ripened. Heck, the junk stuff was $2.59/pound.” The junk stuff — in my opinion every Mainland import, including the dubiously labeled “vine-ripened /greenhouse grown” — is now more than $5 per pound in most supermarkets. “Slicing tomatoes” (whoever bought a piece of fruit because it was easy to cut?) are around $4/pound for little or no taste, and Mainland “vine-ripened” (surely that should be “container-ripened”), have just peaked at over $5/pound.

Terry Shintaku, grower of, in my opinion, the world’s tastiest tomato, has been living with the winter crisis, but his crops won’t be ready for harvest until probably some time in March. Shintaku has the sanguine personality essential to farming. “You live with this kind of thing,” he says with a smile. “You have to budget well and know that this kind of devastation can happen once in a while. It’s farming, and if you can’t handle the pressure, then it’s probably not the best business to be in.”

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