caret-down

Tomato harvest picks up, summer winds down

By: Dr. Daniel Sonke, Campbell’s Manager of Agriculture Sustainability Programs

When you think of Campbell, I’m willing to bet one of the first things that pops into your head is probably a can of our iconic tomato soup—am I right?

Millions of tomatoes go into that soup, but did you know that many of the tomatoes being harvested in our farmers’ fields will also be used in our other foods and drinks? Everything from Prego sauces and Pace sauces to V8 beverages uses those tomatoes. And it takes a lot of them to make the recipes—around 2 billion pounds.

Tomato harvest Campbell

The ripe fruit is driven to Campbell processing plants, which is on average only 38 miles away from the fields. Locals know it’s tomato season when they see the loaded trucks driving down the roads. Once the ripe tomatoes are harvested, they are cleaned, prepared and processed within 4-6 hours.

During processing, the tomatoes are washed down a stainless steel flume and then dropped into a steam-heated mixer, where high heat and agitation break them apart. The pulp is screened to extract seeds and peels and the juice is passed through evaporators and turned into concentrated tomato paste. That paste is shipped to our other production facilities, where it’s a key ingredient for our soups, sauces and beverages.

At Campbell we say “Real Food has Roots”

Many people are surprised to learn that our tomatoes are, and always have been, picked ripe red. The 10-15 varieties used each year are ‘plum’ types grown to be used in our food. If you can tomatoes at home, these tomatoes look and taste similar to plum or sauce varieties you may use. In fact, our employees are known to plant the varieties similar to what Campbell uses in their home gardens for their own salads and sauces. I have three plants in my own back yard!

That real food spirit goes all the way back to our founder, John Dorrance.

Dorrance moved his growing family from an apartment house in Camden, N.J. out to the country. They chose to live on Campbell’s farm (at the time) in Cinnaminson, N.J., where he could keep an eye on the company’s vast tomato fields and personally oversee efforts to develop taste, yield and quality.

Harvested tomatoes stacked on the farm in New Jersey
Harvested tomatoes stacked at Campbell’s farm in New Jersey (circa 1940s).

He insisted that his company use ingredients of a quality both employees and consumers would be proud to serve at their own table. You could say that our farmers’ fields in California are a really big backyard garden to feed a very big family.

As our hard-working farmers finish up this year’s harvest, we’re excited to see these fresh tomatoes go from farm to real food.

Tomato harvest at home

Now you can save those tomatoes from your own garden at home. Chef Robert Kristof, of our culinary team, hit the Twitter airwaves this month to show you how to jar.

Tomato Jarring