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Farm Tour | Brenckles Farm and Greenhouses

By: Jamie Moore, Director of Sourcing and Sustainability at Eat’n Park Hospitality Group

On August 10th I had an opportunity to take a few of our chefs out to one of our local farms that we support.   The chefs that attended were Dave DeCollo, One PNC; Dave Harris, PNC Eco Bistro and Terry Geracia, Medrad Global.  The farm that we visited has been a long standing partner of ours and last year they won Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s “Supplier of the Year”.  They are great people and grow some unbelievable veggies; tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peppers, eggplant, cabbage and cucumbers.

Parkhurst Chefs Visiting Brenckles Farm
Hoop House

This year they decided to do something a little different.  They built a 5 acre hoophouse; a hoophouse is a structure that is used as a greenhouse or a season extender and is characterized by a half-round “hoop” shape. Hoop houses are typically constructed of lengths of pipe, which is both flexible and sturdy then it’s covered by heavy gauge plastic.  The biggest difference between a hoophouse and greenhouse is that hoophouses aren’t heated.   As you can see from the photo , they are still building the structure, but next year, they hope to have tomatoes by the first of July.

One of the primary reasons that we partner with these types of farmers is because of their innovation.  I was talking with Greg Brenckle during our visit and he said next year they are going to be watering their fields with ozonated water.  Ozone is an extremely powerful oxidant and disinfectant that kill bacteria, viruses, and Giardia.  I look forward to updating you on the progress on this very cool food safety initiative.

The hoophouse and the ozonated water are very exciting, but one of the best things about the Brenckle’s are the products that their growing.   It’s really great to see the smiles on our chefs when they see first hand the produce that they use in their kitchens.   We arrived at the farm at 2PM and by 2:30 we were in the fields.   The first field that we came to was the tomato field and we noticed all of the variety of tomatoes that were growing.  San Marzano’s were the ones that got the most interest.  You could hear Dave and Terry talking about the different things they could make with them.  San Marzano’s are a variety of plum tomatoes that are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world.

Chef DeCollo with a tomato, unfortunately it wasn’t a San Marzano.

Chef Harris also took advantage of getting into the field.

Chef Harris with a Japanese Eggplant

All of us were impressed with the variety of peppers that the Brenckles’s were growing.  They had over 10 varieties, some of them hot and others mild.  One of the peppers that really caught our attention was a sweet pepper that resembles a Jalapeño.  It was thick walled so it would be perfect for roasting.

Chef Geracia in field of peppers

Remember this is the time that local produce is at the height of the season.  Take advantage of the local produce while it lasts.  Also in early October I’ll be hosting another farm tour, but this one will be in the East.   Hope you can join me.

Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sauce

3 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes or a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 sprig fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon sea salt for the sugo
6 quarts of water
2 tablespoons of sea salt for the pasta water

Cooking Directions
1.  Wash the San Marzano tomatoes and take the stems off.
2.  When the water is boiling, put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-30 seconds, until the skin puckers or bursts.
3.  Take the tomatoes out of the water and let them cool on a large plate. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.
4.  Cut the tomatoes in half and then into about ½ strips. Remove any skin, stem from the inside, and seeds if you want. Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
5.  Put the olive oil and garlic in a cold pan over a high flame.  Saute the garlic in the oil to release its flavor. Don’t let the garlic brown. With the oil sizzling, put in all the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the basil sprigs and stir them into the sauce.  They will wilt and release their flavor into the sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes have broken down and a chunky sauce has developed. Most of the tomato water should have evaporated. This should take about 15 minutes, if you a like a thicker sauce, simmer for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently. When the sauce is done cooking remove the basil and garlic.

Serve over your favorite pasta.

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