(Aug. 27) If Mother Nature turns off the heat by the start of September, shippers said this should be a good fall season for California artichokes.

Temperatures were above average during the last week of August, said Maggie Bezart, vice president of marketing and sales for Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif.

“During the summer, we should have gotten a lot of fog and 65 degree temperatures,” she said. “We’ve had beautiful, sunny days, averaging in the 70s.”

If temperatures don’t decrease, Bezart said larger-sized artichokes, such as 18s and 24s, might ship at lower volumes this year than in 2002. She could not give volume estimates.

“There is some uncertainty on the amount of volume we’re going to get,” she said. “Our volume is going to be higher into the medium sizes and the babies.”

Though midsize artichokes were dominant the last week of August, there were moderate depths of larger sizes, said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and general manager of Colorful Harvest LLC, Monterey, Calif.

He said he expected availability of large artichokes to improve as the fall season began.

“The weather and planting profile tends to yield a different variety of sizes this time of year,” Ranno said.

Most artichoke grower-shippers will be in peak fall production from mid-September to mid-October, said Pat Hopper, manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board, Castroville.

Crop quality and production have been good for artichokes so far, Hopper said. There were no winter freezes and plenty of rain fell this past spring.

Prices on Aug. 25 for thorned artichokes were $20.35 per carton for size 18s, 24s were being traded for $18.35-18.75 and size 30 artichokes were priced at $14.35, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Thorned artichokes during the last week of August last year were selling at $18.60-22.35 per carton for size 18s and $18.60-24.35 for 24s. Size 30s and 36s were selling for $12.60-14.35 per carton.

Bezart said prices this fall would most likely be the same as last year. She said Ocean Mist Farms would see its peak from the end of September through mid-October.

Mid-September prices in 2002 were $22.35 for 18s, $16.35-18.60 for 24s and $10.35 for 30s.