“Overall, we are up a little in tonnage this year” in table grapes, said Atomic Torosian, a partner in Crown Jewels Produce LLC in Fresno, CA, in an interview with The Produce News.
“We have contracted with a few more growers, so Crown Jewels’ production is up by at least 20 percent from last year,” he said. Those increases are “mostly towards the mid- to late season, not so much on the front end.”
Crown Jewels started shipping grapes from the Fresno District in Central California June 20 this year, which is “probably the earliest start date we have ever had on Flame grapes” out of the district, Torosian said. “We have now been packing for almost two weeks on Flames, and we have been packing for over a week on black seedless grapes. We will start packing some green grapes toward the end of next week.” Those will be the Sugraone and Princess varieties.
“The quality so far has been outstanding up here in the Central Valley” with good berry size and “nice firm grapes,” Torosian said.
Crown Jewels was also involved in the spring grape deal out of Sonora, Mexico, and the transition from Sonora to the Central Valley was smooth this year.
“The only thing we have done is brought up a few Red Globes, like we do every year, from Mexico to mix out with some of our mixer orders,” Torosian said. But that was now coming to an end. “We are shutting the Mexico operation down tomorrow, and we will be done down there for the season,” he said.
Coming up in the company’s Central Valley grape program were “all the traditional varieties of grapes” as well as “a few new varieties,” Torosian said. “We have the Krissy this year, which is a new variety for us” along with a couple of numbered varieties that do not yet have names. Krissy is a newer red seedless grape by Sheehan Genetics. Torosian described it as having a “rounder” shape than most red seedless varieties and a “very sweet” taste. “It is a nice piece of fruit,” he said. “We are putting some up in clamshells.”
There are a lot of new varieties available for growers to plant. “Most of them are pretty good; some are unproven,” he said. “We have some new ones in the real early stages that we won’t harvest until next year.”
Crown Jewels does expect to pack “a lot of Scarlet Royal grapes” this year. That is “a good solid grape for us” for both export and the domestic markets, he said. Also, Autumn King, a relatively new green seedless variety which has been widely planted in the industry for the late season, is “a great variety” for the company, he said.
Along with grapes, Crown Jewels’ California fruit program during summer and fall include an assortment of other items besides grapes. “We are packing cantaloupes out of the West Side” as well as Honeydew melons, he said. “Today, we started packing Stark Crimson red pears, and Monday [July 7] we will start packing Bartlett pears. Then we will break into our apple programs in mid-July” beginning with Galas and following up with other varieties.