Table of Contents
Botanically a fruit, yet treated as a vegetable, no garden nor dinner plate seems to be complete without the delectable tomato. Every year, the average American eats roughly 24 pounds of tomatoes. Tomatoes are grown in almost every state in the United States, and New York ranks 15th in the country for tomato production with 2,800 acres of tomatoes planted across the state every year. With the right amount of preparation, these savory fruits can be incorporated year-round into any institutional menu.
New York Grown Food Guides offer information and resources to support institutions in identifying, sourcing, and procuring local foods from within the state. The Guides, along with the Farm to Institution New York State Local Food Buyer Learning Center (www.finys.org/blc), equip food service and procurement staff with education and training to incorporate local products into meals to improve the health of New Yorkers and local economies statewide.
Tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lycopene and lutein. Lycopene is an antioxidant which has been shown to slow the progression of cancer and protect again the harms of pesticides and herbicides. Lutein not only promotes healthy vision and protects eyes from daily screen usage, but also promotes skin health and elasticity.
- Tomatoes are nightshade plants originating from Central America
- 75% of American tomato consumption comes from processed tomatoes. (1)
- Including tomatoes in the diet can help protect against cancer and maintain healthy blood pressure. (2)
Tomatoes are high in folate, which is very important for periods of intense growth for the human body, such as infancy and adolescence. Serving more tomatoes in school can help children to increase their folate consumption which in turn helps to improve children's moods, provide them with more energy to run and play, and is necessary for brain development and function. 6
Tomatoes are full of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, all of which promote heart health. 6
Availability, Pack Sizes, Varieties, Grading and Quality Characteristics
New York tomatoes can be sourced as early as mid-July and as late as mid-October, with August and September being the months in which tomatoes are most widely available across the state. Large greenhouses in New York state make it possible to purchase fresh, vine-ripened, local tomatoes year-round, which is an incredible and convenient source of tomato procurement for schools and institutions across the state. However, most New York institutions will find it easiest to purchase processed New York tomato products in order to incorporate these savory fruits into their cafeteria menus during the colder months. Tomato products commonly available include crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, and salsa.
Many have heard or heirloom tomatoes and marveled at their unique colors and shapes, but what makes a tomato an heirloom? Every season, farmers collect tomato seeds straight from the heirloom tomato plants that produced the best fruit and save the seeds to plant the following year. These seeds are open-pollinated, meaning that the pollination occurs naturally via birds, bees, wind, or human hands. This process allows the farmer to select for optimal size, juiciness, and flavor, but also allows for wide variation in the appearance of each tomato. Whereas most commercially grown tomatoes have been bred for consistency in shape, size, and flavor, heirloom tomatoes will likely change in appearance from plant-to-plant and year-to-year, making each tomato unique.
When selecting tomatoes, key characteristics will depend on the variety. Some characteristics to look for are:
- Plump fruit with smooth skin
- Free of bruises, blemishes, or deep cracks
- Fresh, green leaves
- Tomatoes that are still on the vine will stay fresher longer
Packaging Requirements & Pack Sizes For Tomatoes
In the following sections, you will find item descriptions and pack sizes for several varieties of fresh tomatoes. Contact information is listed for each supplier to help make it easier to find and buy tomatoes when in season.
|BEEFSTEAK||SLICING||Cherry & Grape||Plum (ROMA)||Heirloom|
|15 lb. bulk or clamshells||
Tomato box OR 1/2 bushel box
|12/1 pint||10 lbs||
Tomato box OR 1/2 bushel box
10 lbs or 25 lbs (tomato box)
25 lbs (tomato box) or 10 lbs (carton)
10 or 25 lbs
10 or 25 lbs
Extra Large 5x6
10 or 25 lbs
U.S. No. 1.
U.S. No. 2
U.S. No. 3
Storage & Preservation:
- Fresh tomatoes last approximately 5-7 days. When fully ripe, they should be kept on the vine for longer shelf life. Storing fresh tomatoes in
- the refrigerator makes them mealy, so it is best to keep them at room temperature.
- Tomatoes emit high amounts of ethylene gas and should not be stored near produce sensitive to this gas to prevent rapid ripening of fruits and vegetables.
- Tomatoes can be preserved year-round through canning. Whole tomatoes should be blanched and peeled and can then
- be stored in sealable jars. The canned tomatoes are perfect for using in sauces, on pizzas, and in stews.7
- Tomatoes can be cooked down with salt into a puree, and the resulting tomato sauce can also be canned or frozen for later use.
- Fresh tomatoes can be frozen and later used for cooking.
- Tomatoes can be oven-dried, covered with olive oil, and stored in the fridge for long periods of time. When ready to use, these are great in winter salads, pasta, and stews.
Full Service (Broadline) Distributors
Ginsberg Foods Inc.
518-828-4004 or 800-999-6006
Latina Boulevard Foods
315-788-5610 or 1-800-633-4311
Sysco Long Island
Sysco Metro New York
315-672-7000 or 800-736-6000
New York Distributors & Processors
Black Horse Farms
Headwater Food Hub
The Farm Bridge
Preparation Ideas and Recipes
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half and toss them into a salad or pasta
- Crush and simmer canned or fresh tomatoes into a soup
- Toss chopped tomatoes into a skillet with other vegetables and add the stir-fry or curry sauce of your choosing
- Add chopped tomatoes as a pizza topping
- Slice beefsteak tomatoes and add to a sandwich with mozzarella, pesto, and spinach
- Grill or sauté tomatoes on flattop and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper for an easy side dish
Peach and Tomato Salsa
- Prepare items as directed.
- Combine ingredients (peach, tomato, red onion, and jalapeño) in a mixing bowl, add cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings as needed.
Recipe Credit: NYC Garden to Café Program
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Slice plum tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/2 inch shell. Salt insides of tomato. Invert onto paper towel to drain.
- In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, chopped thyme, chopped oregano and red chili flakes until thoroughly blended.
- Line filled tomatoes on prepared baking sheet.
- Spoon 1-2 tsps. of Ricotta mixture inside each tomato half.
- Using either a vegetable noodle maker or a vegetable peeler, make the zucchini and squash noodles and set aside.
- In a large sauté pan over a medium heat, add oil. Add diced onions and sauté until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add chopped tomato pulp and dry white wine. Bring to a boil and reduce until the liquid evaporates.
- Add the squash and zucchini noodles to the onion/garlic mixture and toss gently. Add the rest of the oregano, thyme, and basil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss until combined. Remove from heat.
- Add zucchini/squash mixture on top of prepared tomatoes, mounding slightly. Dollop 1 Tbsp. of ricotta/parmesan mixture on top and sprinkle lightly with reserved Parmesan cheese for garnish.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped basil leaves.
Recipe credit: NYC Garden to Café Program
- Combine all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Puree for 2 minutes or until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Taste & season with extra salt, pepper, and/or cumin if needed.
- Refrigerate in a sealed container for 4 hours, or until completely chilled.
Serve cold, topped with desired garnishes.
Recipe Credit: Gimme Some Oven
Case Study: The Farm Bridge
Though tomatoes are nutritious and delicious, the growing season in New York is relatively short. Tomatoes are widely available in the late summer and early fall, but the rest of the year are not in season, and greenhouses can be expensive to operate in colder parts of the state. However, tomatoes are also one of the most widely used ingredients throughout the United States and incorporating them into school menus year-round could help K-12 schools greatly increase the amount of local food being served in cafeterias. Though the short growing season poses a challenge throughout the state, The Farm Bridge and Headwater Food Hub provide an example of how a successful supply chain can benefit many in our state’s food system.
The Farm Bridge, located in the Hudson Valley, is a processing and co-packing company helping local farms to preserve their products and expand their markets for more than 10 years. Working with over 50 regional farms to source various produce, they purchase New York grown tomatoes from farms including Hepworth Farms in Milton, Dagele Brothers Produce in Florida, and Black Horse Farms in Athens. During New York’s fall tomato harvest, the Farm Bridge purchases about 50 to 60 pallets of tomatoes, totaling 200,000 pounds. They then wash and freeze these tomatoes and turn them into various products.
Their most popular tomato products include pizza sauce, marinara sauce, and crushed tomatoes, which are both purchased directly by New York colleges and institutions, as well as sold to New York distributors.
Currently, the Farm Bridge is working with Headwater Food Hub, which operates out of Ontario, New York, and works collaboratively with a network of farmers as well as food producers to deliver topquality, sustainable foods year-round. The most popular product that Headwater distributes from the Farm Bridge is their crushed tomatoes, which are mostly directed towards New York universities and colleges. They also sell large quantities of marinara sauce to K-12 schools, especially in the Syracuse and central New York area. This marinara sauce is being used frequently for pasta sauces, chilis, and meat sauces in cafeterias across the state.
Headwater handles the delivery of their products, both to their partner schools and to central warehouses in school districts where schools can pick up the products themselves. This model benefits tomato farmers around the state by extending the shelf life of the tomatoes and providing farmers with a consistent market. Schools, and especially students, benefit from year-round access to the many nutrients and health benefits that local New York tomatoes and tomato products provide.
Farm to Institution Resources
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
New York State Grown and Certified
Farm to School
Harvest of the Month resources
New York State Department of Education Farm to School
Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York
Local and Regional Food Systems at Cornell
Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Program
New York Farm Bureau
Northeast Organic Farming Association
National Resources Conservation Service
Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship
Adirondack North Country Association
Adirondack Farm to School Initiative
Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County Farm to School
Cornell Cooperative Extension Seneca County Farm to School
Food & Health Network of South Central New York
Food Hubs & Aggregators
Catskills Food Hub
Corbin Hill Food Project
GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Co
Headwater Food Hub
Jerry Shulman Produce
North Star Food Hub
The Farm Bridge
The Hub on the Hill
Upstate Growers and Packers