Columbia student gives thumbs up on the "two-ton tomato sauce" lunch on the first day of school

Ever wonder how the two-ton tomato sauce got its name? Well, your question is answered here.

Executive chef and director of food services Patrick Durgan and culinary program supervisor and chef Mataio Gillis attended the February 2019 Farm-to-Table Trade Meeting sponsored by Sustainable Connections. With the opening of the Central Kitchen earlier in the year, they were networking throughout the day to source out local farms that could deliver farm fresh vegetables and fruit for processing into school lunches. With the new equipment in the Central Kitchen, the possibilities this year have grown exponentially for scratch-made options.

During the course of the day, they both met many local farmers. Each of them at one point had spoken with a farmer that talked about the ‘ton’ of tomatoes that are donated or sent to the compost because they couldn’t find a buyer in time, tomatoes being very time sensitive and short-lived.

At the end of the day, Durgan and Gillis met up and shared the stories and the people they met. Each of them had their own ‘ton of tomatoes’ story, but ironically from different farmers. Because of that, the two of them aptly named what would become the locally-sourced “two-ton tomato sauce.”

Over the course of this summer, the Central Kitchen has reached out to numerous farms creating partnerships to be able to grab those delicious, ripe tomatoes to process in the Central Kitchen. The first batch of two-ton tomato sauce includes tomatoes from the following local farms:  Sage & Sky – 1000 lbs., Cloud Mountain Farm Center –  500 lbs., Joe’s Garden – 220 lbs. and Crows Farm – 150 lbs.

In a visit to Ten Fold Farm in early August, the two chefs spoke with farmer Tiffany Bell. (Her husband was one of the farmers that talked about the ton of tomatoes at the conference.) During the visit, Bell made an interesting observation about tomatoes in our area. While she says that other growing regions would have large-scale canneries that would take all the extra tomatoes, in Whatcom County, not known for tomato growing because of our more temperate climate, there is no market for something smaller in magnitude, like an extra 2,000 pounds.

According to Bell, “There is only so much you can sell directly to the consumers. So you have all these tomatoes that are over-ripening, that are your seconds, tomatoes that are split but are still functional to turn into a value-added product.”

She remarked that In the past whenever there has been an excess of tomatoes at the height of their farm’s growing season, those have gone to the food bank maybe or even into a compost heap. With the Central Kitchen up and running now, some of these tomatoes can now be processed, not at cannery levels of 20,000 or 30,000 pounds, but maybe at smaller scale batch cooking rates of 2,000 pounds (a ton) for student lunches.

The first batch of two-ton tomato sauce, prepared in August, was brought to you with tomatoes from the following farms: Sage and Sky, Cloud Mountain, Joe’s Garden and Crow’s Farm.

See time lapse video of preparation day. This tomato sauce was served on the first day of school over penne pasta and came both as a vegetarian option or with beef added.  The sauce will show up on the menu throughout the school year as the culinary team preps and freezes many more batches while tomatoes are harvested in the next month, the height of our local growing season.

The word from school lunchrooms was that it was “delicious” and “awesome” getting many thumbs up. (See photos above.) But don’t take the word of others. Try it yourself at a future lunch. Click here for the menu through Oct. 4.




Leave a Reply to Sal Backman Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment