When Brett started Even’ Star Organic Farm twelve years ago, he wanted to be known as the “Tomato Man.” He pledged to only sell tomatoes that had truly ripened on the vine, unlike the commercially graded “vine ripens” which need only show the slightest blush of pink to garner that label. Unfortunately, after the first year, he discovered that the fully ripened tomatoes were too fragile, and his customers wanted a product with a longer shelf life – 2 days instead of 2 hours. Now he picks them two days from perfection, still more ripe than his commercial counterparts.
Over the years, and through some research I did for him, he realized that the tomatoes were a loss leader – he only makes about $1 per case profit. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and he uses the tomatoes to lure customers and relies on other crops to make his money.
This year, Brett is up to his eyeballs in tomatoes. And coming from New England, where entire tomato crops have been wiped out, this is a welcome sight! Hundreds of cases of tomatoes fill the storage room. His CSA subscribers are getting seven pounds a week.
He will not be able to sell all the tomatoes, so he will preserve them to sell with his winter CSA subscription. In addition to canning for his home-use, some tomatoes will be truly sun-dried. The tomatoes are sliced thickly and laid out on trays in the greenhouse (where temperatures can exceed 150F) to sun-dry.
If you are in the DC area, you can purchase his tomatoes at the Chevy Chase Farmers' market on Saturday mornings from 9am - 1pm, at the corner of Broad Branch and Northampton Sts., NW, DC.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
2 tbs. pine nuts or almonds
1 tbs. chopped garlic.
2 tbs. parmiggiano reggiano
¼ cup basil leaves
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
1. Rehydrate tomatoes in olive oil: Combine in skillet over medium-low heat and cook until the tomatoes plump and are pliable, about 5 minutes.
2. To the tomatoes, add the garlic and nuts, and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until garlic is lightly golden and nuts are slightly toasted. Immediately remove from heat.
3. Strain oil and reserve. Put tomato/garlic/nut mix in a food processor. Coarsely chop. Then slowly drizzle in reserved oil and process for 1 minute more. Add parmesan and basil and pulse until incorporated.
4. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.