(Jan. 26) California vegetables are getting their share of freeze damage, showing the mid-January damage was not limited to citrus.

Baloian Packing Co. Inc., Fresno, for instance, reported their leafy vegetable crops in the Coachella Valley, were hit hard. Broccoli and cauliflower crops at other companies have suffered as well.

Jeremy Lane, salesman at Baloaian, said the romaine, red leaf, green leaf and butter lettuce varieties suffered leaf blister and peel. He said the blistering occurs when moisture in the leaves freezes solid. As temperatures increase, he said the leaves split.

“Retailers can expect a condition issue for the next month or so,” Lane said.

The focus immediately after the freeze had been centered on California’s $1 billion citrus crop as frigid temperatures destroyed acre after acre of fruit. But it’s clearer now that a number of vegetable grower-shippers are sharing the misery.

Eric Schwartz, president of Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., Salinas, Calif., said the cold weather took a heavy toll on his inventory. He said the company’s broccoli and cauliflower crops suffered freeze damage and that retailers can expect prices that reflect the short supply.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices for Imperial, Coachella and Palo Verde Valley:

  • Broccoli, bunched cartons of 14s, at $17.35-21.45;

  • Twenty-pound cartons of loose crowns at $19.35-24.95; and

  • Film -wrapped white cauliflower, 12s, at $18.35-25.95.

Those prices are more than double the prices the Department of Agriculture reported for broccoli and cauliflower on Jan. 30, 2006.

Leafy vegetables also suffered. Schwartz said Dole’s romaine crops will be down 10% to 15% while iceberg lettuce will be off 20%. He said the ongoing low temperatures have kept the iceberg heads from maturing. They are unusually small, he said.

Schwartz said, “The wild card for spring lettuce is Huron.”

The Huron area, in western Fresno County, is a key spring lettuce growing region. He said the lettuce was just beginning to sprout. If it survived the freeze, the supply could be more stable in a couple of months, he said.

According to the Department of Agriculture, prices on Jan. 24 for cartons of iceberg lettuce, 24s, were $10.35-12.85, as compared with pre-freeze prices of $7-7.45. On Jan. 30, 2006, the price range was $4-5.50.