Friday, October 26, 2007

Spotlight: Manuel

Greetings fellow tomato lovers! My name is Manuel, V.P. of Operations at Santa Sweets. Before joining the Santa Sweets team, I grew tomatoes, lettuces and herbs in my native Puerto Rico, and melons, watermelons, peppers, and tomatoes in Israel’s Dead Sea Valley.
It was real desert farming!

I joined the company in 2000, and now it is my job to ensure that UGLYRIPE tomatoes make a safe and comfortable journey from my field to your plate. I also wrote the development plan that eventually led the USDA to approve UGLYRIPES for sale during the winter. So when you’re enjoying those tasty summer treats during the dead of winter, you know who to thank!

My typical day begins bright and early at 6:30 a.m. Most of my morning is spent preparing inventories, checking orders, and meeting with the production and sales employees. Then I spend some time working with the sales team finding new and exciting ways to get our products to new restaurants and grocers who want to taste the fruits of our labor, literally!

After putting in some time at the office, I visit the packing house and help my coworkers prepare to ship the UGLYRIPES to your local grocery store.

When someone asks about the best part of my job I tell them it is developing special projects and managing the creation of new accounts. I get to act as a consultant to the sales team and I really enjoy that.

Right now, there are a few special projects I am working on, but I have been sworn to secrecy. Keep checking back for new updates.

One secret I’d be happy to share with you however, is my UGLYRIPE Bruschetta recipe:


One French Baguette

4 large UGLYRIPEs cubed at ½ - ¾” chunks

3 oz green olives, chopped

3 oz black olives, chopped

½ tbsp, minced garlic

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, reserve 2 tbsp.

¼ bunch Cilantro, finely minced

¼ bunch green onion chopped

Salt & Pepper to taste

Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese


Combine all ingredients except bread and cheese into a bowl and allow it to marinate for about an hour. Cut French Baguette in ¾” rounds. Spread remaining olive oil over bread. Sprinkle Gorgonzola cheese over bread. Warm the bread in oven until brown and cheese begins to melt. Pull from oven and spoon some bruschetta over bread.

Enjoy warm!

Repeat until all the bruschetta is gone and go buy more UGLYRIPES to start the process all over again!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What's in a name?

Back: Tom, Paul, Amy
Front: Matt, Otto

Evidently, quite a bit for the Bloeser family of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who recently welcomed their third child into the family. Otto James Bloeser, was born on August 12, 2007 and named, in part, with a little help from Santa Sweets™ Grape Tomatoes.

As the story goes, Otto’s father, Paul, has always liked the name Otto. When Paul was born, his father wanted to name him Otto, but his mother didn’t care for the name and decided to name him Paul. Since learning of his name that never was, Paul has wished to name one of his own children Otto.

After getting married 12 years ago, Paul’s wife, Amy, already had a son named Thomas. When they got pregnant with a second child, Paul tried to get the name Otto in the mix, but was shot down. The baby boy was eventually named Matthew. They now had two boys, Thomas and Matthew.

After learning of the latest pregnancy, Paul and Amy began throwing around more names. “I tried to bet her that if it were a boy I got to name it, and if it were a girl she could, but she knew what I was up to,” Paul says.

Well, one day while grocery shopping, Paul purchased a package of Santa Sweets™ Grape Tomatoes. As Amy helped unload the groceries, she took one look at the package of our grape tomatoes and was floored at what she saw. There on the packaging was our Santa Sweets Trio, Tom, Matt and Otto (Thomas, Matthew and Otto). After some reassurance from Paul that this was not some trick and verifying it during her next visit to the store, Peanut (what they called him after the first sonogram), became Otto.

Born 13 weeks premature (2 lbs. 9 oz.), Otto was indeed more like a grape tomato, than one of our larger UGLYRIPES®. “He is doing great even though he is still in the intermediate NICU. We are hoping to get him home this weekend,” Paul recently told us.

All of us here at Santa Sweets wish Paul, Amy and Tom, Matt and Otto the best.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


True, this is an old story. But we just dug up the link to Laura Parker’s piece on the UGLYRIPE in USA TODAY a few years ago. Nice to see how far we’ve come!
USA Today: "It's a Fight in Florida, and it's Ugly"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

And the winners are...

Hey folks! It's the beginning of Fall and time for us to announce our "Ugly Tomato" Contest winners! There were so many unsightly entries we had a hard time picking just one. So instead we've decided to give out ten prizes!

Chieko Arimura of Cupertino, CA, Vincenzo Domingo of Long Island, NY, Nadine Gotschall of Louisville, OH, Odes Hoogeveen of Oxnard, CA, Stephanie Mallette of North Canton, OH, Gregg Meyer of Nevada City, CA, Courtney Newman of Hollywood, CA, Lori Patterson of Richmond, VA, Rita Rudner of Buena Park, CA and Cheryl Thomas of Virginia Beach, VA are the proud owners of some repulsive produce, and the lucky recipients of a box of UGLYRIPEs. Each winner can choose to have their case shipped now or in the dead of winter when the summer tasting UGLYRIPE might be a refreshing reminder of warmth. Kelly Bevan, an eleventh winner, is from the UK.

We had a great time seeing everyone's ugly tomatoes and we hope you'll share your ugly tomato pictures with us again!

Check out these UGLY winning entries!

Gregg Meyer, Nevada City, CA

Stephanie Mallette, North Canton, OH

Odes Hoogeveen, Oxnard, CA

Nadine Gotschall, Louisville, OH

Vincenzo Domingo, Long Island, NY

Chieko Arimura, Cupertino, CA

Cheryl Thomas, Virginia Beach, VA

Rita Rudner, Buena Park, CA

Lori Patterson, Richmond, VA

Kelly Bevan, United Kingdom

Courtney Newman, Hollywood, CA

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Worldly Tomatoes

In Belgium they say "tomaat," in France "olivette," in India "tamaatar," and in Spain "tomate." The word "tomato" has as much diversity as the fruit's use in recipes, from salads to soups to casseroles to drinks and unique concoctions have been created by cultures throughout the world, bringing together tomato-lovers from near and far.

Belgium has a fresh and delicious tomato salad, France boasts a creamy tomato mousse and India spices things up with a tomato curry. Also check out this tasty recipe for a Spanish salmorejo or this American tomato pudding and tomato paella. We think any of our tomatoes from romas, to grapes to UGLYRIPEs® would be oh-so-appetizing paired with these recipes!

Have your own favorite recipe? Share it with us! We'd love to try out your creative culinary innovations!

And don't forget the last day to enter your UGLIEST tomato pictures for our "Ugly Tomato" Contest is September 21! Hurry and show us your ugly ruby reds at!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tomato Fame

Celebrities are known for getting the best of everything, spending their millions on fancy cars, extravagant homes and exotic vacations. They also sometimes make precise requests for special treats like a favorite candy, beverage or...tomato? Yes, tomatoes and not just any ordinary tomatoes. One professional athlete in particular had his eyes set on our delectable UGLYRIPE® Tomatoes.

Tiger Woods, the U.S.’ number one golfer, celebrated his birthday last year with a bash at his country club in North Carolina that included a large order of only the best-tasting UGLYRIPEs. Yes, our ruby-reds were given celebrity status by the Florida resident who wouldn’t blow out the candles without our deliciously irresistible tomatoes. We don’t blame him. They’re mouth-watering good!

So although celebrities may love their luxury and fame, they love their tomatoes, too!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tomato Art!

It’s August, it’s hot, and while it’s the season of tomato-picking for many of us, it’s also the season of tomato festivals! Tomato-inspired events are popping up across the country, including one that caught our eye in Nashville, Tennessee. The city just hosted its fourth annual Tomato Art Festival featuring a range of artwork and activities that capture the true essence of tomatoes. Showcases included various tomato contests, tomato parades--even tomato fashion shows! Check out some of the beautiful, wild and crazy tomatoes here and here. Who'd have thought that a celebration of tomatoes could bring over 10,000 people together to bond over sharing delicious tomato recipes, tomato music, and of course, the tomato art!?!

Have any tomato art of your own? We'd love for you to send us pictures of your creations! We love all that is tomato and we want to see how creative you can be with them! BETTER YET- get in on our "Ugliest tomato contest." As the proud grower of UGLYRIPES, we think the most beautiful "works of art" are ridgy, creviced, wrinkly bulbous, crazy-looking tomatoes. Bonus points if you report in that your homegrown summer gem also tasted delicious. As a reminder- all contest entries should be sent to A full description of the contest and the mouth-watering grand prize is detailed in our last post.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Greetings fellow tomato lovers! It’s that time of year again. August is upon us and you know what that means… TOMATO PICKING! The vines of your homegrown tomato plants have spent the past few weeks soaking in the sun and drinking lots of water. Now they are drooping to the ground under the weight of your delicious red (or maybe still green) tomatoes.

We here at Santa Sweets want to see if you can give our UGLYRIPES a run for their money— show us YOUR ugly and strange looking tomatoes! That’s right folks, step into your garden, find the ugliest tomato on your plant and send us a picture. We’re looking for weird shapes, bulges, dents and formations on your tomatoes. Slice one open and see an image of Abraham Lincoln? Send us a picture of your tomato (then sell it on eBay)!

On the first day of autumn— September 22, we will select the ugliest tomato, feature it right here on our blog, and ship its proud owner a box of UGLYRIPE tomatoes to enjoy into the fall months, after your personal garden has shut down for the summer. Remember, UGLYRIPE tomatoes are spectacular year round!

Email your photos to us at If you have a story to go along with it too, we'd love to hear it.

By submitting your photos and stories, you agree to allow Santa Sweets to post them to our blog or webpage without cost. We will make every effort to credit you for the photo(s) you submit, however the image becomes our property. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tasty Tomatoes: The New Grocery Store Staple!

This week we've been hard at work, trying to brainstorm ways of making the UGLYRIPE more accessible to you.

The cartoon above represents the idea that a summer-tasting tomato can now (and should be) considered a grocery store staple--along with milk, bread and eggs. The idea that you should come to expect UGLYRIPES to be a produce aisle regular at your local grocer is now a feasible opportunity. We're working with chains across the U.S. to make sure that's the case. If you want UGLYRIPES at your local store, mention it to the produce manager. Your kind words and support mean more than you know!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The World's Newest Celebrity Chef

The biggest little chef in America right now is Remy, the rat hero/gourmand/celebrity chef in Disney's new movie Ratatouille:If you haven't seen this endearing and funny flick about the world of haute cuisine and the notion that "anyone can cook," not only do I recommend it, but just about every movie critic and food critic in America does as well.

If you have made it out to the theater for Ratatouille, you know that Remy achieves his celebrity chef status by getting back to basics and cooking a traditional French vegetable stew--ratatouille--for France's toughest food critic (the "bad guy"). One bite of the dish, featuring summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and onions (although there are many varying recipes) transports the evil critic back to his childhood, when his mother prepared ratatouille for him as a comfort food.

Tomatoes, one of the ingredients Remy uses in his preparation of the ratatouille that makes him famous, is my comfort food. Is there any food ingrained in your memories- a comfort food- that can transport you back to a time and place?

Remy the rat's knack for cooking stems from his heightened sense of taste and appreciation for premium foods (I also happen to think Remy would love UGLYRIPES! Or bite sized grape tomatoes- the perfect size for him). I also happen to see a similarity between Remy and our UGLYRIPE: You have to taste it to believe it.

No one wanted to eat gourmet food prepared by a rat. In fact, the notion was unthinkable. But one bite of Remy's creations and the only thing that mattered to his patrons (and critics) was taste. Similarly, you can't always judge a tomato by its appearance. One bite of an UGLYRIPE and you'll know that taste is all that matters in choosing a tomato. The common thread is flavor--everything else goes out the window.

I'll leave you with a recent ratatouille recipe--inspired by the movie--published by the Associated Press.

And finally, here are some other blogs and articles that have been inspired to talk ratatouille recipes after seeing the movie (many which are much simpler than the movie's version of the recipe):

Glittering Muse
: "I LOVE the dish ratatouille. It’s one of the first things I learned to make. What’s great about it is its flexibility. Once you have any combination of the basic ingredients you can do just about any proportions and it turns out nicely. Lots of room for creativity, which I love."

Kalyn's Kitchen: "Maybe the movie Ratatouille will get kids to like vegetables again. I know that when we walked out of the theater, my nephew Ethan asked me "What did the rat cook for the bad man?""

USA Today: "Chef Emeril Lagasse treated comedian Patton Oswalt — who voices the star of the upcoming film Ratatouille— to a heaping helping of actual ratatouille on his Food Network show, Emeril Live! Here's the recipe..."

Will Work For Food: "Ratatouille is being called one of the best movies of the year. I totally agree. As posted before, the crew and animators were trained to cook by Thomas Keller, meaning they ate well and were taught by one of the best. But did it pay off? Were the animated cooking scenes authentic and realistic enough?"

Ruhlman's Blog: "Last weekend Chef Pardus called me to say if I didn’t take my kids that very weekend to Ratatouille, I was a loser. This from the same guy who called me a wuss because I didn’t want to drive 30 miles through a blizzard to make a bechamel sauce. I tend to listen to him. He said, “Ratatouille gets it, it totally gets chef culture.” The reason for his delight is first that chef culture is important to him and second that it’s almost never gotten right."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Of Fireworks and Summer Picnics

A post from one of our blog managers, Leslie:

I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July holiday! I was in Washington DC, for the national fireworks (or as my friend's three-year-old like to call them: "Sky Pops"). Narrowly avoiding a rain-out, the skies cleared just in time for a beautiful show over the Washington Monument.

In the grand tradition of Fourth of July picnics, I grilled out with some friends at their house a few blocks away from the Capitol. They provided the grilled food and drinks, and asked everyone else to bring a dish to share.

My contribution to the pot luck was UGLYRIPE tomatoes- sliced and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of black pepper. It turned out to be the hit of the party (not to degrade the deliciousness of the grilled burgers and dogs, by any means, though!)

For such a simple dish, the compliments piled in. When a tomato tastes that good on its own, it's hard to accept praise--but I did anyway :)

For my next foray into "UGLY" food prep, I'm thinking of chopping up that very concoction and adding it to a slice of toast topped with a basil leaf for some fresh bruschetta. Or chopping it up and tossing it with some fresh mozzarella to make my own version of an UGLYRIPE salad. I think they'll be doubly impressed when I show up with a similar, but equally as "summer-tomato-goodness-y" dish around Christmas time...

My new secret to creating praise-worthy pot luck dishes is relying on excellent ingredients. If you've got a great tasting base (such as an UGLYRIPE) to begin with, there's little room for error!

By the way, if anyone has any suggestions on improving or adding to my "recipes," We'd all love to hear about it!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tomato Technology

Although I’ve never gotten involved with genetically modified produce, and don’t particularly plan on it, I find it very interesting to read about some of the developments others are making in that realm.

This topic, particularly with regard to tomatoes, came to mind this week after reading an article online about tomatoes being genetically modified to smell like roses. Take a look:

GM tomato has floral, fruity smell

25 Jun, 2007 / 0223 hrs / STlAFP

PARIS: Israeli researchers say they have genetically engineered tomatoes to give hints of lemon and rose aromas that have done well in testing on volunteers.

The transgenic tomato includes a gene from a variety of lemon basil, Ocimum basilicum, that produces an aroma-making enzyme called geraniol synthase, Efraim Lewinsohn of Newe Yaar Research Centre and colleagues report.

Read the full article here.

I can appreciate advances in “tomato technology.” In fact, I’ve made it my life’s work to advance the flavor of tomatoes. I also don’t think researchers and growers can really hurt anything by offering something new and innovative. But personally, I think this particular tomato is doomed to fail.


Tomatoes were never meant to smell like roses. Or taste like “lemon basil.” Tomatoes should taste like tomatoes.

Sometimes I think that some of the “traditional” tomatoes that you get at the grocery store don’t really taste like tomatoes either. But that’s for another post…

The motto we stand by at Santa Sweets is “Focus on Flavor.” But I’ll take this opportunity to clarify that the flavor I speak of is not rose or lemon or peppermint or blue raspberry—It’s that unmistakable juicy sweetness you get when slicing into a perfectly ripe homegrown tomato. That should be the aim of tomato growers.

Can your taste buds transport you to the glory days of summer when backyard heirlooms abound and you’re never short on slices to top burgers, toss into a tomato mozzarella salad or blend into gazpacho? I sure hope so, because that’s the experience I’m aiming for, for my customers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And we're back!

Greetings, tomato lovers and connoisseurs! We're back! Thanks to everyone for the positive comments you've left while we were away from our computers. We've been busy growing more UGLYRIPES to meet the overwhelming demand!

This is my first personal post and I hope you'll be patient while I get more familiar with blogging. But I promise to keep the site updated with posts about what's on my mind and address what's on your mind--your comments and questions--as best I can. In addition to my posts, some of the staff here will also be keeping the site updated with news, articles, commentary and other things that we think you'll find interesting.

So I'll take my first stab at answering some of the comments that have appeared. For our readers who have been inquiring to availability of UGLYRIPES, our time off from blogging has served you well. I'm pleased to report that we have built up our supply of both conventional and organically-grown UGLYRIPEtomatoes in the time since the USDA ruled in favor of taste over beauty-enough to make sure that every grocery store that wants them has them.

So if you're missing UGLYRIPES in your neighborhood, we have 'em. Just ask your grocer to stock them. If you still can't find them, post a note here with your city and state and I'll make sure that we personally track down the closest location where they are currently available.

The Santa Sweets crew and I look forward to a summer filled with tasty, juicy tomatoes and the assurance that after the summer passes, we'll finally have a fall and winter free of the Florida Tomato Committee's shape restrictions that will allow us to enjoy flavorful backyard-style tomatoes long after the summer has passed. You no longer have to settle for tomatoes that look great but taste bland in the winter.

I'd also like to encourage your participation on the blog and encourage you to use the comment section to start a conversation! Got a favorite tomato recipe to share? This is the place. Want to tell us your beef about someone's beefsteak? Let us know. So now it's your turn. Let us know what's on your mind!

Joe Procacci

Friday, January 26, 2007

Meet Joe Procacci

CBS Tampa came by our tomato packing plant yesterday to interview Joe, the man who spent years creating the UGLYRIPE tomato (and then years fighting the Florida Tomato Committee to bring the tomato to the national market). That you know. But many of you haven’t had the chance to meet Joe in person so here he is on camera.

Here’s the news story that ran last night on Tampa Bay 10:

You’ll also get a chance to see our packing and distribution facility we have here in Plant City, FL. It’s incredible watching seas of Santa Sweets grape tomatoes floating on sorting line and then washed and packaged and the UGLYRIPE has it’s own packing line. In the coming weeks and months you'll probably be hearing a lot more of this tomato wonderland we call "the packinghouse," since that's where a lot of the action happens on our end. You'll also get to hear from Joe himself and some of his thoughts and insights into the tomato world. We're looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments as well, so feel free to post them!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Extra! Extra! Read all about the UGLYRIPE!

Our UGLYRIPE has been quite the media darling lately, making the pages of The Miami Herald, Philly Inquirer, and Tampa Tribune among many others. Check out a few our favorite news clips from the past week:

“We win! UGLYRIPES are as accepted as Ugly Betty!” From Orlando Sentinel’s Food Columnist Heather McPherson & her blog, “Forkhead.”

“UGLYRIPES Prevail in Tomato Growers Spat,” an Associated Press article by Maryclaire Dale.

The Miami Herald sided with taste rather than beauty in it’s editorial on Friday.

With so much excitement for UGLYRIPES surrounding the USDA ruling, demand is quickly surpassing current availability. You may find some at your local grocer, but these are going quickly. We're working feverishly here at Santa Sweets to keep up and hope that our supply will catch up with your demand as we're planting many more tomatoes. We hope you’ll keep checking back here or at for updates.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Tasty Tomato All Year 'Round!

We've been thinking about starting a blog here at Santa Sweets for a while. And what better day to start than UGLYRIPE Liberation Day?!? That's right -- the tomato that many of you have written fan mail to us about; the tomato that so many of you sent letters to the USDA begging for a pardon for this not-so-beautiful but flavorful tomato; the tomato that for so long was
shackled by the Florida Tomato Committee's shape standards - the UGLYRIPE is finally able to be shipped throughout all of the United States year-round! Thanks to USDA, all Americans will now have access to the UGLYRIPE's midsummer goodness during the darkest days of Winter. And, as always, it will also be available during the rest of the year!

For those of you that aren't familiar with the saga of our now-famous heirloom tomato, check out the article in today's New York Times here.

Of course we have to thank USDA, but our real debt of gratitude is to you- all of the consumers who spoke out on behalf of free trade and tasty produce!

Here are some of our favorite quotes from everyday consumers who took time out of their daily lives to write to USDA expressing their frustration:

"I have finally found something that my hard to please father in law will eat.During Ohio winters, all we have to look forward to is snow, ice, potholes, and UglyRipes, so please don't take away the one great thing we have to look forward to!"

"I want to be able to purchase a good tasting tomato year round. It is ridiculous that all we have available in Michigan is cardboard tasting baseballs disguised as, I say loosely, tomatoes. Please bring us UglyRipes."

"If there is a tomato in Florida that has good flavor, regardless of its shape, it needs to be put on the market. We have had enough of grungy tomatoes. Any tasty tomato would improve the reputation of Florida tomatoes."

"This tomato is AWESOME! It is better than any other type...They are so good you can just cut them, salt them, and eat them plain. I was even known to eat them like apples. So please.please let Uglies back on the market. We love them and miss them. No other tomato comes close to being as incredibly celestial as these round orbs of heaven."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Coming Soon...

The Santa Sweets blog on all things "TOMATO" will be launching this week...keep checking back!