Eva Dawson, director of sales and food safety for Dawson Farms in Delhi, LA, told The Produce News that the company’s crop is great quality this season. “And we have nice volumes in storage,” she added. “We will be shipping from cured to cured this year.”
Ms. Dawson said sweet potatoes that are shipped immediately after being harvested are uncured. These are commonly referred to as “green” sweet potatoes, and they typically have a much shorter shelf life compared to cured. Also, uncured sweet potatoes have not had the opportunity for the sugars in the flesh to develop nicely, so the flavor is not as good.
“Sometimes folks just don’t have enough volume to make it from cured to cured, depending on weather conditions, so they have no choice but to ship green product,” Ms. Dawson said.
Besides good volumes and high quality this year, Dawson Farms has a good crop of No. 1 size potatoes.
“These go to the fresh market, where the demand for them is strongest,” she said. “Off-grade sweet potatoes go to processors.
“Consumers are much more educated about sweet potatoes today,” she continued. “They have learned that, nutritionally speaking, it is a perfect food. And it’s extremely versatile. Sweet potatoes are great boiled, fried, grilled and roasted. And it goes perfectly with many other food items as well as herbs and spices. But even with nothing added, just poke a little hole in the tip of the sweet potato and roast it. You’ll see the sugars bubbling out of that small hole and the aroma and flavor is perfect when eaten just like that.”
Dawson Farms is located in northeast Louisiana, along the Macon Ridge. It grows and ships predominantly the original Louisiana Beauregard sweet potato, which the company claims is the best cooking and tasting sweet potato. It offers a superior pack, provides both less than truckload, or LTL, to a full truck load and it offers unparalleled customer service.
The company ships in the South and Midwest from Texas northward, and as far west as Wyoming.
It also sells all of its off-grade sweet potatoes to ConAgra, whose processing plant is also located in Delhi.
“ConAgra can purchase only ‘green-tagged’ area sweet potatoes, which are sweet potato weevil-free regions,” Ms. Dawson explained. “Pink-tagged areas are those where the sweet potato weevil is active. If you stay on a regimented pest management program, you can rid your land of the weevil, and our region is green-tagged. ConAgra definitely supports local growers.”
She noted that the Louisiana Department of Agriculture sets out traps in facilities and fields throughout the state every year to determine which areas are pink-tagged and which are green-tagged.
Regarding this year’s soft prices, Ms. Dawson said it’s always a matter of supply and demand.
“Everyone had a good 2012 harvest, and that takes a toll on the supply-and-demand balance,” she said.