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Domestic Tomato Shortage in Full Force

By Lindsey Miller in Food on Mar 5, 2010 7:40PM

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt.
Do you know where the tomato that you're eating right now comes from?

Take a look at the frozen ground and leaf-less trees. Nope, it doesn't come from around here. What about Florida - it's always sunny and warm there, isn't it? Not this year. Florida usually is the largest domestic tomato grower in the dead of winter. But this year, a freeze in mid-January wiped out most of the crop. Now, most of your tomatoes are coming from as far away as Mexico or Canada - if you're getting them at all.

Jewel-Osco and other chains claim to have purchased enough tomatoes to keep prices low. But at smaller stores, tomatoes that would have normally gone for 79 or 99 cents now can cost as much as $3.

Fast-food chains and local restaurants aren't raising their prices, but they're skimping on tomatoes or purchasing different varieties like Roma, grape, or cherry tomatoes that are cheaper and easier to find. Wendy's chains across the country are offering tomatoes by request only. Subway is supplementing its supply with different varieties of tomato.

Florida tomato growers expect this squeeze to be over by Easter, when the next crop comes in. But for now, perhaps think twice before biting into that big juicy burger-with-tomato-slice. Do you know how far it traveled to get to your mouth?