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looking for flats of tomatoes

Venturing into canning before the end of tomato season, and wondering if any of you 'hounds could give tips about buying flats of tomatoes directly from a farm. I don't belong to a CSA but am wondering if any of you who do know if the farms sell to outside people?


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  1. You can buy a flat at the farmers' market, but I'd scout around first and see where the best tomatoes are. This has been a pretty bad tomato season (I haven't had a great one yet, has anyone else?) so it's worth looking around. You can also get on Mariquita Farms' email list for their ladybug buying club, though you need to be able to pick up in SF.

    1. I second the Mariquita Farm suggestion. they offer san marzano's for canning through their buying club but haven't this year yet due to the lack of heat but they should be coming soon I'd imagine.
      NOTE: I just checked their website for the ladybug buying club and the last update shows "late August as well as Sept. at $28 for 20#.

      You can also try finding dry farmed early girls at various farmers markets. they are great for canning as well.

      Mariquita Farm CSA
      142 Linden Rd, Watsonville, CA

      1. You might consider an alternative this year...buy some canned tomatoes. We have been using S&W Stewed tomatoes from Costco for several years. They are superb solid pieces, not mush. I'm hoping to get a good crop this fall, but it doesn't look good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer

          I've been buying Muir Glen tomatoes on sale...probably not as good a deal as Costco but I think I paid $2 for 28oz can. Sure beats the inconsistent fresh ones. Any way, a lot of the fruit has sucked his year due to the weather.

          1. re: OldTimer

            Ditto on this. I haven't seen any tomatoes this year that I would want to buy by the flat. They're all smaller than fist size, even the most expensive ones. None of those grapefruit-sized monsters that were so wonderful last year.

          2. The Dirty Dog Farm folks who are usually at the Wednesday, SF Civic Center and sometimes at the SF Alemany FM on Saturdays said they'd have their organic dry farmed Early Girls available in September for about $25/box. The more presentable ones, are more costly of course.

            Artemis informed me that a vendor at the Belmont FM had organic San Marzanos by the box, if memory serves. Most tomato vendors will sell you a case. Need to try them too.

            If you're going for sauce, or canned tomatoes, you want less moisture for more robust taste. Each fall, I can enough tomato sauce to fill a dresser to last till next year.

            4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

            1. At the end of the markets, the vendors generally sell off at a lower price. You may be trading price for condition (firm v soft), but since you plan on cooking them, that should not be a factor. Most tomatoes unsold at the farmer's markets will not last for resale and are often mulched. Both sides win, you get a better price and the vendors don't have to pack up.

              1. Baia Nicchia has advertised flats of tomatoes for sale (as in reduced price) the past two days from their farm in Sunol. http://baianicchia.blogspot.com/ It seems like you could call and see if you can buy another day.

                1. At the Saturday San Mateo farmer's market, Happy Boy has been selling flats of San Marzanos for about $1.60/lb, in (half? not sure) flats costing $18. They haven't been super red looking, but everything we get from Happy Boy has been good so the flats may be worth a try.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: artemis

                    Same pricing on these at the Grand Lake market in Oakland. They were on the small side last weekend but had a robust tomato aroma and made excellent sauce.

                  2. We ordered a few flats of organic Romas from Fully Belly Farm and took delivery at the Marin Farmers Market...for something like $1.20/lb.


                    1. I'm chiming in a bit late, but for those of you still in canning mode, here's pricing I found at today's Thursday Civic Center Farmers' Market in San Rafael for organic romas, as well as recent research at other markets:

                      * Full Belly Farm, $50 for a 20# flat (today's Thursday Civic Center Farmers' Market)
                      * Tomatero Organics, $38 for a 20# flat (today @ Civic Center Farmers' Market)
                      * Ortiz Brothers Farm, $20 for a 25# flat (today @ Civic Center Farmers' Market)
                      * Catalan Family Farm, $25 for a 20# flat of organic romas a few weeks ago (ordered at Upper Haight market, picked up at Ferry Building the following Saturday)
                      * Happy Boy, $15 for a half flat (10#) of organic romas (Palo Alto Farmers' Market last weekend)

                      Needless to say, today I bought 2 flats (50# total) of organic romas from the friendly people at Ortiz Brothers Farm for a paltry $40. Luscious, first quality, organic romas for just $0.80/lb!!! It was 10 minutes to close by the time I got to their booth, so I lucked out.

                      Others have mentioned Mariquita Farms, and I agree that they are a great source. Their Ladybug Buying Club provides amazing quality produce and you can pick up in a bunch of places, not just San Francisco. Their most recent pickup locations include (but are not limited to) Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove, and SF. It just depends week-to-week. Join their email list and you'll get the skinny.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: gimmemore

                        We bought 20# flats of organic romas from FBF for $24/each, but you need to order in advance.

                        Full Belly Farm rules!!

                        1. re: chilihead2006

                          Dang, that's a nice price. Well it's definitely my loss. My trip to the Civic Center market was very spur-of-the-moment. Since I've heard good things about FBF from a few sources now (including you), I'll have to plan ahead next time.

                          FYI, I'm loving my tomatoes from Ortiz Brothers Farm. I'm almost done canning the two flats I bought from them and wow!! Their tomatoes are great. I'd happily buy in quantity from them again!

                          1. re: gimmemore

                            We pulp the tomatoes in the cuisinart, pour it into a big pot and simmer it for a few hours until the volume is reduced by about 25% before putting into 1 qt plastic freezer containers. This has worked perfectly for us for the last 15 years. The slow simmering is essential to develop the sugars. It creates the perfect base for all kinds of pasta sauces....the sweetness is unmatched. You will never taste a better tomato sauce. Freezing is far easier than hot water canning. The only thing we can is olives.

                      2. Bought a 20lb flat of beautiful San Marzanos ($1.50/lb) at Hardin Gardens (Sonoma) yesterday, along with a few lbs of Cherokee Purples, a few other heirlooms, gypsy peppers (not usually a fan but they were the best-looking peppers he had) and eggplant.

                        The farmer hadn't been out in his tomatoes to assess the rain damage but thought Wednesday would be his last day.

                        Hardin Gardens
                        22656 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476