So Ugli, open-pollinated
(59 - 74 days)
Old-fashioned tomato flavor on productive determinate
plants. So Ugli is similar to UglyRipes marketed by Santa Sweets of Plant City FL.
The large, half pound or more, beefy tomatoes are considered unsightly by some folks because the
fruit lack the perfect roundness and smoothness bred into today's popular hybrids.
However, So Ugli's exceptional flavor more than compensates for its appearance.
Florida growers realize that 'quality is job one' and high standards are necessary, but things may have gone a bit too far when the 12 member Florida Tomato Committee [FTC] prohibited Joe Procacci from selling his UglyRipe tomato outside the state. Procacci Brothers of Philadelphia PA spent over 20 years and 3 million dollars in research to develop the first shippable tomato with a home-grown taste. Marketed by Procacci's fully owned subsidiary, Santa Sweets of Plant City FL, the UglyRipes are hand picked only when fully ripe and carefully packed individually into spongy sleeves that prevent bruising during transport.
Highly ribbed shoulders are a typical feature of UglyRipe's appearance, but the lumps and grooves are considered a deformity under specifications established by the USDA's No. 2 grading standards in 1955, so the FTC, strictly following the letter of the law, at first ruled UglyRipes could not be sold out-of-state from mid-October to mid-June, but then reversed itself granting a 3 year experimental permit to test public reaction. Even though the public proved willing to pay twice the price for the sweet and juicy UglyRipes, once the experimental permit expired in 2003 the FTC panel voted against extending UglyRipe's exemption.
In business since 1948, Procacci Bros. was no light-weight corporation. The company, willing to play hard-ball, hired a public relations firm, a lobbyist, and a Washington lawyer. Free UglyRipe samples were passed out on Capitol Hill and Gourmet Magazine featured the great tasting, homely-looking tomato with a two page spread.
Procacci's homestate Senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, along with congressional Rep. Don Sherwood and former U.S. Ag. Secretary John Block came to UglyRipe's defense. The USDA leaned towards granting UglyRipe a permanent exemption under the department's new Identity Preservation Program, but was opposed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the FTC, and an anxious group of FLA tomato growers. After Jeb left office in Jan. 2006, the USDA ruled in Procacci Bros. favor.