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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Farm Tour 2011 – Late Summer Edition

Last time I posted, it was early July and local tomatoes were just coming into season. As you’re probably well aware, they’re ripe now! On August 10th, I had an opportunity to visit one of the local farms that we work with through our FarmSource program. Brenckle’s Farm has been a long-standing partner of ours. They are great people and grow some unbelievable veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peppers, eggplant, cabbage and cucumbers.

This year they decided to do something a little different: they built a 5 acre hoophouse. What, exactly, is a hoophouse? Well, it’s similar to a greenhouse in that it’s a structure used to extend the growing season. Made of half-round lengths of pipe, the “hoops” are generally covered by heavy gauge plastic. The biggest difference between a hoophouse and a greenhouse is that hoophouses aren’t heated.

As you can see from the photo , they are still building the structure, but next year, they hope to have tomatoes by the first of July.

One of the primary reasons that we partner with farms like Brenckle’s is because of their innovation. I was talking with Greg Brenckle during our visit, and he said that next year, they are going to be watering their fields with ozonated water. Ozone is an extremely powerful oxidant and disinfectant that kill bacteria and viruses - without the use of chemicals. I look forward to updating you on the progress on this very cool food safety initiative.

While the hoophouse and the ozonated water are very exciting, the high-quality produce grown on this farm is the most important reason for our partnership. We got right into the fields during my visit. The first field that we came to was the tomato field, and I immediately noticed all of the varieties of tomatoes that were growing. San Marzano’s really caught my eye. These are a variety of plum tomatoes that are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world. As we continued our tour, I was continually impressed with the variety of produce being grown, and my mind was immediately churning with new recipes I could try at home.

This is the time that local produce is at the height of the season, and I’m taking advantage of it while it lasts – I hope you will too! Be sure to stop by your local farm market to pick up some vine-ripened veggies. And if you should come across any of those famous San Marzano tomatoes, here’s a recipe I think you’ll enjoy.

Until next time,

Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sauce

  • 3 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes (or a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, if you can’t find them fresh)
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Cooking Directions
  1. Wash the San Marzano tomatoes and take the stems off.
  2. When the water is boiling, put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-30 seconds, until the skin puckers or bursts.
  3. Take the tomatoes out of the water and let them cool on a large plate. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half and then into about ½ strips. Remove any skin, stem from the inside, and seeds if you want. Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
  5. Put the olive oil and garlic in a cold pan over a high flame. Saute the garlic in the oil to release its flavor. Don’t let the garlic brown. With the oil sizzling, put in all the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the basil sprigs and stir them into the sauce. They will wilt and release their flavor into the sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes have broken down and a chunky sauce has developed. Most of the tomato water should have evaporated. This should take about 15 minutes, if you a like a thicker sauce, simmer for an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Stirring frequently. When the sauce is done cooking remove the basil and garlic.
Serve over your favorite pasta.


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