This past Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market the tomato deals were ripe for the pickin’. With the official change this week from summer to fall it may only be a matter of weeks before tomatoes wind down completely. Farmer Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce tells me he is hoping to have his famous Early Girls well into November and Bill Crepps of Everything Under the Sun says he plans to harvest another crop of San Marzanos in the next few weeks, but both also cautioned that with the wacky weather this year, and predictions for a cooler fall, you just never know. So now is the perfect time to cash in on some bulk buying deals and stow these puppies away for the winter months.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Chef Sarah Henkin told me she’s been making heaps of tomato sauce lately. Borrowing from a recipe in the Frankie's Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, she blanches and peels the tomatoes first, and then slowly browns a clove or two of garlic in some olive oil. The tomatoes are then added to the garlic, crushed lightly and stewed over a low simmer for about four hours, salting to taste when finished. If made in a large enough batch, this easy tomato sauce can be frozen in individual portions for easy week night meals all winter long.
Many of the best bulk tomato buys at the market are for off-grades or seconds. These tomatoes are generally just cosmetically less attractive or further along in the ripening process, and as Sarah tells me, perfect for saucing, roasting or canning. At Dirty Girl Produce you’ll find 20 pounds of off-grade Early Girls for $25. The Peach Farm has 25-pound boxes of mixed heirloom seconds for $10, and at Catalan Farms you can grab 10 pounds of organic tomatoes for only $15. Lucero Organic Farms is also offering up a great deal for the rest of the season - a $1.99 a pound mix-and-match special on all their tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants.