Our tomatoes vs. theirs
Costco also carries hothouse medium-sweet
on-the-vine Roma tomatoes and slightly sweet
Many other varieties, including grape and
heirlooms, are offered seasonally.
Other warehouse club
Out of stock
grocery store $2.99/lb. $3.99/lb.
Prices based on a survey taken in the Seattle
area in December 2006
easily shows a 30 to 50 percent savings. And
then there is the consistency factor. For
example, we consistently sell Campari on-the-vine tomatoes. When others are out, we still have them. Our
specifications are also consistently high.
Right now another retailer is selling
hothouse cukes at near our price, but
if you compare side by side,
theirs are at least two or
more inches shorter.”
Here is this winter’s Costco greenhouse shopping list.
bugs naturally pollinate the plants and eat “bad”
bugs, keeping crops healthy. No herbicides are
used, and genetic modification is not allowed.
Greenhouses usually run on a three-month cycle from planting to first harvest.
Nurseries start the plants from seed. By nine
weeks they are moved to maturing rooms. At
Mastronardi, samples are continuously sent to
Holland, the leader in greenhouse technology,
for nutrient testing and to confirm sweetness.
Sustainability is a key feature of all Costco
hothouses. Greenhouses use one-eighth the
land required by traditional farming methods
per crop harvest. They also yield up to eight
times more, which translates into much lower
water usage. The nutrient-enriched water is
also filtered and recycled.
This highly protected, encapsulated environment does much to alleviate concerns over
contaminated ground-water seepage from adjacent fields, impure rain, droppings from critters and pesticide drift.
Per Costco’s strict national guidelines,
these hardy yet delicate crops are handpicked
and packed daily. Only vine-ripened vegetables
are selected. Cold storage is not allowed, nor
are salt or chlorine baths. Mastronardi reports
that studies show such caretaking creates vegetables that are more nutritionally sound and
flavorful than those grown in the ground.
Packed vegetables are shipped the same
or next day and arrive in Costco warehouses
between days two and five after picking.
When asked about value, Keith reports,
“Compared to traditional grocers, Costco
Tomatoes are the
number-one most consumed fresh produce item and continue to
grow in popularity because of their taste,
color, flavor and nutritional value.
Low in fat and sodium, cholesterol free,
a good source of potassium plus vitamins A
and C, tomatoes are also a primary source of
lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. The human
body cannot make lycopene. It must be consumed in food.
Mastronardi, BC Hot House and Eurofresh are the only licensed growers for the lipstick red Campari on-the-vine tomatoes in
North America. “Costco was the first major
retailer to carry this golf-ball-size tomato,”
says Keith. “The flavor is perfect, with just the
right mix of sugar and acid for a true tomato
taste. It is our number-one tomato.”
Camparis remind me of the tomatoes in
Europe. They work perfectly in grilled kabobs, hors d’oeuvres (especially stuffed), salads,
bruschetta, pizza and salsa.
Why on the vine? “Vines continue to provide nutrients even after harvested,” Heather
explains. “Keeping tomatoes on their vines
translates into better-tasting tomatoes with
longer shelf lives.”
Along with the sweet-as-honey Camparis,
Costco is one of the biggest U.S. buyers of
long English cucumbers. Their taste is far superior to that of traditional cucumbers. Fresh
cucumbers are a very good source of vitamins
C and K, potassium and dietary fiber. Costco’s
micro-perforated shrink-wrap helps them stay
fresher in the refrigerator longer. Wash them
when you’re ready to eat them.
I’m a big fan of Costco’s new hothouse
baby cucumbers, also called Mediterranean
cucumbers. These petite gourmet greenhouse
delights provide a great healthy snack alternative for all ages since they are seedless and
have edible skins—just like their big cousins
the long English. They also make the most
Costco offers a vibrant hothouse mixed
bag of two orange, two red and two yellow
sweet bell peppers. They are high in vitamins
C, A and E. In case you are counting, an orange
pepper has about 90 calories, a red 70 and a
The thick, juicy skin delivers a perfect
crunch for salads and sandwiches. Cooked,
they add a deep, rich and sweet flavor to
soups, stir-fries, kabobs, pasta and fajitas. Always refrigerate peppers in the bag to retain
moisture. Wash them just before use.
I continue to shake my head at the price
charged for sweet bells at my neighborhood
grocery as compared to Costco. (A recent
check found $4.99 per pound versus Costco
at $2.54 per pound.)
A little bit of summer whenever I
wish—now that’s a Costco promise I heartily
Fresh off the Costco produce stand
WHEN ASKED what is the biggest
produce storage mistake made by
consumers, Costco buyers Heather
Shavey and Keith Neal chime,
“Refrigerating tomatoes. Never
This called for a “Pat” test.
Day 1: Both containers of
Costco on-the-vine Campari tomatoes taste fabulous. I move one box
to the refrigerator.
Day 2: Refrigerated tomatoes
are not quite as sweet.
Day 4: Room temp tomatoes
are a deeper red and much
Day 6: “Ugh” best describes
the refrigerated toms.
Day 7: Even the hubby (who
eats anything) stops eating the
Day 8: I throw out the refrigerated Camparis and gobble
up the remaining countertop
tomatoes … before the hubby