Florida chill puts tomato prices up the vine – latimes.com

By Hugo Martín and P.J. Huffstutter

March 5, 2010 | 9:00 p.m.

Because of frigid temperatures in Florida, you might have to enjoy a BLT without the T.

Freezing winter weather in the Sunshine State has wiped out nearly 70% of its tomato crop, sending prices soaring in many parts of the country and forcing fast-food restaurants to ration supplies of the plump, popular fruit.

In California, with a $363-million fresh tomato crop last year, the Florida freeze is being felt to a degree. At a Wendy’s eatery in Santa Clarita, for instance, the staff had taped up a sign near the drive-through menu that broke the bad news: The Florida chill was making tomatoes scarce, at least for the time being.

Inside the restaurant, a customer frowned after biting into a cheeseburger. The only red on the sandwich was from the ketchup.

A representative for Atlanta-based Wendy’s said tomatoes would be included in its meals only at the customer’s request. In Oak Brook, Ill., McDonald’s said the tomato crisis had not changed operations at the restaurant chain. A spokeswoman for Quiznos Sub Shop declined to comment on the tomato chill.