YSFP cooks up tomato workshop

When life gives you tomatoes, make tomato sauce.

About two dozen students did just that Thursday afternoon at the Yale Farm, when they convened to learn the proper method of transforming the red plant into a rich and savory tomato sauce.

Students cut up freshly picked tomatoes for a YSFP-sponsored tomato sauce workshop held Thursday evening.
Rachel Engler
Students cut up freshly picked tomatoes for a YSFP-sponsored tomato sauce workshop held Thursday evening.

While others were attending Master’s Teas or swiping in for dinner in dining halls, some students made the long trek up Prospect Street to attend the first Yale Sustainable Food Project workshop of the year. Event organizers said they were glad to see graduate students and members of the New Haven community participate in the harvest along with undergraduate students.

Melina Shannon-DiPietro, co-director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, said she was pleased that the workshop enabled different groups of people to come together and interact within a close-knit community.

“That spirit is something that often goes missing in college life, though Yale does comes close to creating it with the residential colleges,” she said. “We tried to recreate that spirit here today.”

Shannon-DiPietro said the tomato sauce workshop was established three years ago, and grew out of an agricultural community tradition of learning how to preserve and enjoy crops grown over the summer. Thursday’s workshop was part of a series of YSFP events scheduled for this semester, which include eight speakers and four workshops.

To make the sauce, students chopped fresh-picked Bellstar tomatoes and laid the pieces out on trays. They sprinkled the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and garlic, and topped them off with sage and basil grown on the farm. Next, they slid them into the farm’s wood-burning oven and let them roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour to remove excess juices. Once fully cooked, the tomatoes were pureed and jarred. Shannon-DiPietro said that although the workshop taught students how to make tomato sauce that can be frozen and preserved for long periods of time, many students chose to break bread and enjoy the fruits of their labor right on the farm.

While the tomatoes were baking in the oven, attendees also learned how to make pesto suitable for freezing, so that the taste of fresh basil can be enjoyed throughout the winter without spoiling.

The group ended their day by reciting Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Tomatoes.”

Claire Bucholz ’09, who regularly works on the farm and is a member of Food from the Earth, said that at one point there were 30 workers present at the workshop, including a number of freshmen and graduate students.

Henry Connelly ’09 said he was intrigued by the workshop because he likes to cook, and he now plans to return to the farm in the future.

“After a long day of statistics and political science classes, it was a nice way to soak up the remaining days of summer,” he said.

Shannon-DiPietro said the farm plans to host sessions on making bread, apple galettes and cheese in the upcoming weeks.

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