ToMAYto Processing ToMAHto Processing

One thing that #NaBloPoMo is good for is getting all of those blog posts that have been sitting on your to-do list forever, out of your head. Today we get to talk a little bit about tomato farming and tomato processing on a larger scale than the Union Avenue Community Garden will ever accomplish. There were acres people. 

Remember in August, I visited California for the#FarmtoPlate initiative and to hang out with farmers and visit one of the Monsanto fields? No? If you don’t remember, you can check out my post about pepper production by clicking HERE, and then come back to check out how your tomatoes are grown, harvested, processed and packaged. 

You back? Okay, let’s go. 

Tomatoes are a hot commodity around here. Everyone likes them, and some of us like them a bit more than others. Nathaniel and I are able to eat them like apples with just a little salt and pepper any time of day. I’ve grown into a routine of slicing two large tomatoes up for lunch and dinner and serving them as sides to the houseful, and no one has bat an eye to that addition. It makes me feel very rural, and even more homestead-ish. Thick slices of home grown tomatoes that are deep reds, sun orange, or even nice and green for fried green tomatoes. It’s what I call living. 

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

To see the process of making tomatoes into paste though, the smell, once you got past the initial smell of of the tomatoes that were sitting in the sun for too long outside, is pretty intense. Not in the way that you may think. It’s the perfect smell of paste making at home, you’re just enveloped by it. Almost like a great big tomato hug. If you’re into that type of thing. 

Tomato processing plant for #FarmtoPlate tour

Before I get ahead of myself though, let’s start at the beginning. Early in the morning, we headed out to a tomato farm. We were led on a tour by the farmers themselves, and were told that they grow tomatoes that have certain qualities. You need roma variety that are firm, and low moisture, because time is money, and trying to cook the excess water out of tomatoes takes way too long, and doesn’t preserve the actual tomato taste. You want tomato taste when you break into a can of tomato paste, or at least I do. 

 

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

You know when you eat a tomato at home, how you may want to have one that’s juicy? You don’t want a dry tomato, it doesn’t fit well with the palate. Well, in tomato processing you want the total opposite. You want a tomato with small amounts of juice, and not a whole lot of of seeds. You want more tomato flesh for optimal return on your investment. Essentially, since you can’t use the seeds, or skin, you want to make sure that you’re able to use as much of the rest of the tomato as possible. 

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

Harvest happens almost exactly the same way that corn harvest does, except the machines are a bit different. This machine gathers the tomatoes, plants and all, and separates them from the stems. So you end up with just the tomatoes. So many tomatoes. The process doesn’t take a long time either. I’m still amazed at how fast they cleared acres while we were standing there and watching. 

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

When you want to talk local, know that these tomatoes aren’t even going to be in this truck for longer than an hour after harvesting. They are trucked to Morning Star, the local tomato processing plant and unloaded, where the tomatoes will go from harvest to paste in less than a day. They are washed, cooked cooked down, and packaged all in one day, and it’s LOUD and HOT. 

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

Tomato Processing #FarmtoPlate

That pulp above is what I was left with after I made homemade pasta sauce last month! I’ll share that recipe and process later this week, so you’re not stuck with a ton of tomato photos in one post. 

I wish that I had the photos that I took of the finished product, but Samsungate is killing my vibe over here. Yes, I know that I should have been checking daily for backed up photos, I didn’t…sue me. I may also be sobbing at the fresh salt in the wound. 

Things you need to know:

GMO and Hybrid are not the same. As of right now, there aren’t any GMO tomatoes, but there are some being produced for the future.

Farmers eat what they grow. They don’t feed us anything that they themselves wouldn’t eat. 

I’m a proponent and supporter of GMOs. You are free to disagree with me in the comments, but name-calling and general mean behavior won’t be tolerated. 

That’s about it. 

The tour of the tomato farm, and Morning Star processing plant were sponsored by Monsanto. All thoughts opinions and photos are mine. 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Ginny Marie
    November 2, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    What a neat tour! I saw a truck full of tomatoes when I was on vacation in California, and wondered where it was going.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      November 6, 2016 at 8:58 am

      If you were near Sacramento or the surrounding area, it was more than likely going to Morning Star!

  • Reply
    Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON
    November 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    You made the smell come back… and I wish you had told me about the phone… I am sure I have a paste photo somewhere!

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      November 6, 2016 at 8:57 am

      I kind of got the tomato smell when I was making pasta sauce earlier!

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