Now that the Kitchen Genius has pulled all the tomato plants from our plot at the Brewster Community Garden, we only have a few scraggly plants left in our yard. We’ve been enjoying home grown tomatoes so much that we’re not ready to give them up for the season. Luckily for us, Cape Abilities still has plenty of tomatoes for sale at their farm stand in Dennis.
“We were hoping to have tomatoes until Thanksgiving but that’s probably ambitious,” says farm manager James Barnes. “I would say we’ll have them until the end of October.”
James became the new farm manager in August and is very excited about his new job. He learned about hydroponics and greenhouse farming while working at Epcot in Disney World so that made him a perfect fit for Cape Abilities.
On a recent visit, he happily gave me a tour of their greenhouse and explained their growing practices. The tomatoes are grown upright in sterile potting soil that is hydroponically nourished with fertilizer and water by a system that uses 80 percent less water than conventional farming. They use beneficial insects for pest control and the plants are pollinated by bumblebees kept in hives at the end of the greenhouse.
It’s obviously a formula that is working for them. For the fifth year in a row, Cape Abilities Trust tomatoes placed in the top ten in the slicing category at the Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest in Boston in August. I’ll be heading to Cape Abilities for tomatoes until they are gone.
Our tomatoes might not win awards, but those plants really produced this year. In addition to the hundreds we ate raw, I managed to can over 60 quarts and a dozen pints of tomatoes. I also froze six bags of roasted tomatoes.
When I finally came to the last bin of tomatoes to process, KG wanted me to make homemade ketchup. Part of his reasoning stemmed from the fact that all those jars piling up in the pantry are making him nervous. I pretty much ignore his mutterings about inventory control, but when he mentioned that it would also be a good joke, I paid attention.
KG plays poker with a group of friends that he’s known since high school. Since most of these guys live in the mid-Cape area, they rotate between three houses in that region. When they play at Bob and Julie Jason’s house in Dennis, Julie always makes the most awesome snacks. She’s also the only wife who has ever been allowed to play poker.
One week, Julie made some fabulous shaved steak and cheese sandwiches on croissants with caramelized onions. After taking a bite, KG said, “You know what would make these even better? Homemade ketchup.”
The next time they played poker at the Jason’s house, Julie said to KG, “I looked up how to make homemade ketchup and I am never going to do that.”
I can see her point. For the first batch I made the mistake of hand chopping all the tomatoes, peppers and onions. It was incredibly time consuming and a bit dense on my part. Five hours later, four quarts of tomatoes and 1 quart of other veggies yielded only four cups of ketchup. When I mentioned this to my mother, she said, “I guess that makes ketchup the best bargain in the grocery store.”
Well yes, and they do make organic ketchup, so technically there is no reason for me to make my own. But still I persisted, using the food processor for the second bath, which cut about an hour off the time and yielded six cups of finished product because the veggies were more compact when measuring. The finished product was worth the time. It is spicy and delightful in ways that bottled ketchups only dream of being.
So Julie, this one is for you. KG will bring you a jar as soon as poker resumes for the season so you never have to make your own.