Last year, I had one lonely tomato plant in my care. In years past, I’ve grown tomatoes easily and had more than I knew what to do with… last year, my lone plant produced four small fruit that split before they even turned red. Too much rain after a dry spell will do that.
This year, I’ve watched friends lament the loss of their tomato plants to very hungry caterpillars, big grub worms and to grasshoppers. I can’t take a step outside without at least a dozen grasshoppers springing out of the way with each step. I can only imagine what they’d do to tomatoes if I had them around.
Before we moved to West Texas, I was a fan of Village Tomatoes at the grocery stores in the Hill Country. I never imagined we’d be living just a few miles away from where those tomatoes were grown in the greenhouses in Fort Davis and Marfa.
Village Farms grows its vegetables hydroponically – that means without soil – and they use coconut fiber to support the plants in the nutrient-rich water in which they grow. According to their website, they sterilize and recirculate the same water four times and 100% reaches the plants with no waste. In doing this, they use 86% less water when compared to growing tomatoes outdoors. Growing in their greenhouses also allows them to grow 20-30 times more vegetables per acre than traditional farming. A 50-acre greenhouse can yield the same amount of veggies as a 1500-acre farm.
The plants grown in the 40-acre greenhouses are carefully selected for their taste, highest quality, and they are not genetically modified. They are one of North America’s largest producers of premium greenhouse tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. They have greenhouses in British Columbia, Texas, BC Ontario and Mexico. The Mexico City greenhouses are currently expanding.
We recently discovered that we can buy tomatoes from the Fort Davis greenhouse on Mondays and Fridays. For $13, you can purchase a 25-pound crate of beautiful red Roma tomatoes, and for $20.65, an 11-pound crate of sweet and succulent Mini San Marzano tomatoes can be yours. If you’ve ever taken a look at tomato prices at the store, you know this is a fantastic value.
With a crate of Mini San Marzanos in our hands, our first creation was tomato sauce. We blanched the little tomatoes to peel them with ease before turning them into sauce, mashing them with a potato masher.
Peeling a Mini San Marzano is almost as time consuming as peeling a prickly pear tuna, but at least there are no stickers.
A spoonful of tomato sauce 👌🏻
We found our Italian tomato press/food mill that had been packed away after we’d completed the first batch of sauce, but kept it on hand for the next. With the right tool, the tomato press puréed our blanched tomatoes in seconds.
Homemade salsa with Mini San Marzano tomatoes.
Lots of homemade salsa followed, as well as more homemade tomato sauce. Of course, just about every time I walked by the crate of tomatoes, I grabbed a couple to eat. And in case you wondered, 11 pounds is a lot of wonderful little tomatoes.
For more information about Village Farms, visit their website at www.villagefarms.com.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
5 pounds tomatoes
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, halved
1 sprig of basil
1 bay leaf
Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze the seeds out. Press the cut side of the tomato against the large holes of a grater and grate the tomato flesh into a bowl, throwing away the skin. You should end up with about 4 cups of tomato.
Put the tomato pulp in a low, wide saucepan over high heat. Add salt, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, basil and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
Let the sauce cook down by almost half, stirring occasionally. It should become about 2-1/2 cups of medium-thick sauce. Salt to taste. Keeps in refrigerator for about five days, and can be frozen.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche