(May 7, 2:30 p.m.) Near-perfect growing weather has produced ample supplies of high-quality spring vegetables from New Jersey, and grower-shippers say they are enjoying brisk demand.

By May 5, Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., Vineland, N.J., was shipping about 30 vegetables, with romaine, green leaf, red leaf, bibb and boston lettuce among its big sellers, said Vince Consalo, president.

Other than slightly more romaine and green and red leaf than in years’ past, Consalo’s 2008 spring mix of products is about the same as last year, Consalo said.

“The weather’s been ideal, and the quality’s very good,” he said. “The cooler weather recently has been helping make the crops grow nicely — they’re not rushing.”

The good weather had pushed many items slightly ahead of last year’s pace, said Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. Inc., Cedarville, N.J.

Tom Sheppard, president of Eastern Fresh Growers Inc., Cedarville, N.J., reported slightly lower yields on spring asparagus out of New Jersey, but said strong markets are making up for the decline.

Sheppard reported excellent quality and average sizing on this year’s asparagus crop. Eastern Fresh began shipping in mid-April, a typical start to the deal. The season should run through June 15, he said.

Despite having abundant supplies thanks to the good weather, demand has been strong on other items, Consalo said.

“For most items, it’s been good,” he said.

Those strong markets have been a godsend, Nardelli said, given the continuing rises in production costs.

“We hope to be able to get compensated, and so far it has been good,” he said. “The price structure has been good for most commodities.”

On May 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $5.35-6.50 for cartons of size 24 romaine from California, up from $4.45-5.55 last year at the same time.

Red and green leaf from California were $5.50-7.50, up from $4.45-5.75 last year at the same time.

And while they definitely hurt, high fuel prices have also benefited Eastern growers, Nardelli said. Many buyers used to sourcing exclusively from the West Coast for certain items are taking a much closer look at New Jersey this year, he said.

In June, Consalo will begin adding green and yellow squash, corn, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and other vegetables to its lineup, Consalo said.

Consalo expected the company to produce more peppers, cucumbers and eggplant this year.