Tomato Paste: Making the most of GTF Bulk Prices

by Rebecka on September 10, 2014 · 0 comments


The tomatoes are on at Gathering Together Farm!  Even after all the markets are packed and orders are filled, we still have more tomatoes than we can handle.  Each week we make roasted tomato salsa to sell at our farmers’ markets and farm stand; yet our beautiful bounty continues to grow.  Now is the time to get a bulk price discount on #2 canning  tomatoes ( $20 for a 20-lb box).  Call the office at 541-929-4273 or email to place a special order. You can arrange to pick up these orders at the farm or farmers’ markets that we attend. Please order at least a day before you’d like to receive them.

tomato paste cooking blog post

Every year I supplement my garden tomato crop with GTF seconds and make both tomato sauce and paste.  Some years, when I have any canning enthusiasm remaining, I make salsa. Paste is my pantry gold. Romas are a great paste tomato, but I use whatever I have. I roast the tomatoes overnight in baking dishes at 220° F.   Many home canners and recipes call for removing the skins, but I just haven’t noticed a big enough difference in flavor to justify the effort, so I don’t do this. In the morning, I pour off the water and blend the tomatoes in a high-powered blender. This gives you a pretty thick sauce to start with. I also cheat a little.

dehydrated tomatoes blog post

The same evening that I set the tomatoes to roast, I blend whatever tomatoes do not fit into the oven. I pour the sauce into dehydrator trays and dehydrate through the evening. I add the dehydrated tomato leather to the sauce. This thickens the sauce to a paste-like consistency.

paste in jars blog postI have found quite a spread of varying recipes for tomato paste.  Some call for herbs, spices, sugar and even other vegetables. I am not looking for that sort of paste. I am looking for concentrated tomato flavor, a “tomato butter” perhaps. The end product has a rich roasted flavor with a powerful sweetness. I use tomato paste in almost everything I make. I use it in marinades, dressings, sauces, curries, soups and more. It pairs well with almost any flavor and aids in the quest for the desired umami.

totally canned tomato paste

I chose to can my paste but you can simply freeze it too. I have frozen paste in ice cube trays and bagged it for easy portion use. For canning purposes, tomatoes need to be acidified either with citric acid or lemon juice. I used citric acid for my jars and didn’t find that the taste was compromised in any way. If you decide to can your tomatoes I recommend following University Extension approved recipes, or recipes from the Ball Canning books published after 1988. Canning times for tomatoes have changed, so it is in your best interest to stay up-to-date on safe canning practices. You can find canning classes and recipes on the OSU Extension’s Food Preservation web page.

tomato paste blog post pizza pictureI opened the first jar tonight, mixed it with some tomato sauce and Italian herbs, spooned it on a pizza, and it was perfect!


Freeze em': GTF #2 Red Pepper Deal

by Rebecka on September 7, 2014 · 0 comments

number two peppers for blog post sorted #2 peppers

This week the barn was overloaded with red, orange, and yellow sweet bell peppers.  After sorting the best, most beautiful, and brightest for markets, restaurants and our farm stand, the remaining slightly blemished and awkward shaped peppers are available for $1.75/lb (with a 10 lb minimum order).

Peppers photo for blog chopped and bagged pepper freezing production line

Each year I take advantage of GTF bulk deals to preserve the harvest, color, and flavor for my winter and spring meals. Peppers are great because you need only to wash, de-seed, chop and bag for the freezer. It isn’t necessary to blanch before freezing, although you may prefer to roast and peel first. Our family loves to add these frozen peppers to soup, stir-fry, curry, and omelets.


Watermelon Agua Fresca

by Rebecka on September 2, 2014 · 2 comments

Watermelon season is coming to close. It is sad but true. Willamette Valley temperatures are expected to rise again this week, so now is the time to plan some days devouring cool, sweet, refreshing watermelon in the last hot days of summer. We will have watermelons at our farm stand and farmers’ markets for this week. Next week there won’t be as many.

GTF Watermelon Blog 1We have orange, yellow, sorbet and red varieties available. When I can manage not to eat the whole watermelon, I have been enjoying simple aqua fresca drinks. I say simple because they only contain two ingredients: watermelon and ice blended together.

Blog Recipe Watermelon

Agua fresca is a refreshing drink popular in Mexico. At the Corvallis Albany Farmers’ Market, you can find it served fresh at Zia Southwest Cuisine.


Carrots: Clean for the Eating

by Rebecka on August 4, 2014 · 1 comment

GTFDirtyCarrots This is our summer carrot harvest straight from the ground. In dry times like it takes very little effort to release these sweet root vegetables from the soil. During our high season, we typically harvest 800 to 1,000 bunches of carrots two or three times a week. It takes 10 field crew members about 2 hours when the harvest is easy, the weather is good, and the crop is healthy.  GTFCarrotsonTruckThe crew bunches the carrots as they harvest from the field. We don’t weigh or measure specifically, but our crew ties together about a pound of carrots in each bunch. These bunches are loaded on a flat bed and delivered to barn for a high-pressure hose wash.

CleaningCarrots1We get remove the majority of the soil with the hose, then the carrots are put through an additional wash as they move down the rolling table where they are received and packed.

CarrotsConveyerBeltThe rolling table works well for us because it give the produce a chance to drip dry before packing, and it decreases the amount of product handling, making our process more labor-efficient.


Market2photocontestCorvWednesdayOnce packed, our carrots are stored in a cooler until they are shipped to their final destination, such as the farmers’ market, restaurants, or our CSA or farmstand.

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Strawberries: Sweet and Ready to Eat

by Rebecka on May 29, 2014 · 0 comments

Our strawberry crop is abundant this year. It is the best we have seen in a while. You can find these ever-bearing Seascape strawberries at our markets or at our farm stand. While prices may vary from market to market, you can get some good deals if you by in bulk. If you are able to, buying in bulk is a great way to stretch your market dollars. Canning or freezing is great way to stretch the strawberry season! Read Daniel Blaustein-Rejto’s blog post Cost-Saving Tips for Shopping at Farmers’ Markets for some more great ideas to stretch your budget.

strawberries for marketIt can be hard to not eat all the strawberries fresh from the pint! When I have a little excess of  fresh seasonal fruit, I like to blend the sweet goods into a morning smoothie. Smoothies are great way to pack in some protein and other less-tasteful, nutrient-dense supplements.  It makes for a great workout recovery beverage, if that is your thing. The little ones will think they are getting dessert for breakfast.

strawberry smoothie


1 Pint Fresh Strawberries
1 Frozen Banana
1/2 Cup Yogurt
1 Cup Liquid (Milk – cow’s, almond, coconut, water… your preference!)
1/4 Cup Hemp Seeds (optional: choice protein supplement)
2-3 Teaspoons of supplements (optional: I like to mix it up and use spirulina, maca, superfood blends, and/or mesquite powder)

Use a blender and process until desired consistency. Add more fruit to thicken or more liquid if too thick. I like to add fresh market greens when they are around. I have found that you can get away with adding a few leaves of almost any greens without compromising the flavor of the smoothie. I like to use kale, collards, or chard.

Our local natural foods co-op in Corvallis, First Alternative, has a great smoothie supply section in the bulk cooler at their North Store. You can find raw powders of acai berry, camu camu, maca, mesquite, wheatgrass, and cacao, whole hemp seeds, bee pollen, soy lecithin, and cacao nibs.  They also have carob powder and great superfood smoothie mix from Bright Earth Foods. Buying in bulk eliminates packaging waste, is less expensive because you are not paying for individual packaging costs, but perhaps best of all you can assess the product before you buy it for freshness and color. You can also buy exactly how much you would like to try or use. It is a good thing!