Watching the Tomato Harvest with Sharon Palmer, RD
I had such an amazing time visiting the Central Valley in California with the Tomato Products Wellness Council to learn all about how tomatoes are harvested and processed into delicious, nutritious tomato products, including canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, and marinara sauce. Here I am, biting into a fresh, ripe tomato straight from the field on a gorgeous sunny morning in the Modesto area.
California produces a huge chunk of the tomatoes used for processing. The tomatoes are picked at their flavor and nutrition peak—unlike fresh tomatoes that make their way to the supermarket, which are picked about 2 weeks before they are ripe. The farmers pay careful attention to their harvest, waiting for the tomatoes to be perfectly ripe before they harvest them.
You can’t really tell that this field is full of ripe tomatoes, because they are hiding behind the protective canopy of vines. But turn the plant over, and this is what you see: a mass of gorgeous ripe tomatoes! Here I am with Alec Wasson and Rodger Wasson in the tomato field.
The tomato harvester runs through the tomato fields when the tomatoes are perfectly ripe. They pull up the plants and collect the tomatoes, while kicking out the stems and leaves, which will be turned over as organic mulch for the field. It’s a very efficient system that saves back-breaking work for farm workers.
Look at those lovely tomatoes being collected in the harvester! Within 4.5 hours, those tomatoes will be processed, capturing the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their peak.
Here are a couple of videos that show how the harvest runs during tomato season, capturing each precious, delicious tomato fresh from the field.
The moment those tomatoes are harvested in the field, they make their way to a nearby processing plant, which is strategically placed in the heart of tomato country in Central California. Look at this load of tomato beauties! The processing step locks in the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their seasonal peak—making it an endless summer of tomatoes.
Tomatoes with White Beans, Basil, and Olive Oil
After watching the tomatoes through the processing step: washing, peeling, canning, and cooking, we got to sample some fresh in the can tomato products in a test kitchen. I just love this simple, Italian plant-powered recipe. Just heat up canned marinara sauce, top with canned white beans, fresh basil, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and you have a fabulous meal in minutes!
Vegan Vegetable Pizza
Here’s another amazing treat made with freshly canned tomatoes in the test kitchen. This thin crust pizza is slathered with pizza sauce, and then dotted with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, basil, olives, and caramelized garlic. The lack of cheese just makes the tomatoes and veggies pop! Talk about a healthy pizza!
Tomato with Basil and Italian Bread
Here’s a common dish normally served with fresh tomatoes, yet what about using whole canned tomatoes in the off-season? What a brilliant idea! Just serve whole canned tomatoes with a drizzle of EVOO, a dusting of black pepper and sea salt, and sliced basil with a slab of rustic sliced bread!
Honoring Tomato Season
In celebration of tomato season, I’m sharing my best recipes for late summer, featuring delicious, nutritious tomatoes. For more information on tomatoes, visit http://www.tomatowellness.com.
Who says chili has to be a cool weather dish? Pack your chili with loads of vegetables, give it a “meaty” texture thanks to steel cut oats (yes, steel cut oats!), spice it up with herbs and Latin spices, and top it with farm fresh avocados and green onions, and you’ve just discovered your next warm weather, rustic meal. Serve it with salad and cornbread and you’re all set!
This cool, classic Spanish style soup is delicious even on the hottest of days. Packed with the vibrant flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs, it’s a wonderful appetizer or veggie-rich meal accompaniment. This recipe is as easy as it gets—toss the ingredients in the blender and push the button!
Here’s how you rethink your plate: a fresh green salad and whole grain pizza all in one meal that you can whip up in 40 minutes. Now that’s quick and delicious eating for even the busiest night of your week!