Our tomato farm is working non-stop this week packing diced tomatoes. We spent Saturday at the farm watching the harvest and canning process.
This farm has been in the same family for centuries. The earth has been treated with care and the farming is both organic and biodynamic. Seeing one of these tomato fields can strike you at first because they almost look wild. There are rows but they are barely distinguishable because the weeds are allowed to grow as they like.
The tomatoes are left to ripen in the sun and are harvested many times throughout each day from the start of August to the end of September.
As we walk back from the fields to the canning facility with Matteo the farmer, we follow the tractor that transports the freshly picked tomatoes across the street. There, a small crew of people is working diligently to clean and sort through the harvest.
As the tractor passes by these beautiful 16th century buildings, I had to stop a moment and admire their beauty. Maybe to the people who are working here each day, this all seems very ordinary, but for me, an old door, a beam that is still covered with bark and a wall made with a mix of bricks and typical rocks from nearby rivers still standing strong after so many centuries is amazing.
In the back, the family has constructed a packing facility where the tomatoes are thoroughly washed and then sorted by hand, discarding the tomatoes that do not meet their standards of ripeness and integrity.
Once the tomatoes are clean and sorted, they move inside to a steam peeler and on to be packed. Today, we are packing diced tomatoes so the peeled tomatoes move through a machine that slices them into dices. Again, there are people sorting through the freshly made dices by hand, removing pieces that might still have some peel or that do not look ripe. Then the fresh tomatoes are off to the jars. The jars are filled about two-thirds with the dices and then tomato purée tops off the product. The jars are cleaned again, capped and pasteurized.
From field to jar, the whole process took just a few hours. No need to add salt, citric acid, calcium chloride, basil or any additives because when you pack ripe tomatoes so fresh, they are sweet and delicious on their own. The whole time I watched the packing with people hustling and focusing on their work, I kept thinking to myself- Wow, it smells so good in here! In fact, this busy, steamy space had the aroma of what felt to me like the sweetest and purest fresh tomatoes I had ever experienced.