Smooth, round cooking tomatoes that have more juice than the oval shaped tomatoes are highly recommended
The tomato is one of the commonest vegetable or food spice around. It is consumed raw, fresh or cooked with other foods.
However, during bumper harvest, as has been in Uganda between April and June, prices drop so low that farmers' earnings drop.
For example, a 40kg box that should ideally cost between sh70,000 and sh90,000 drops to as low as sh30,000. However, if the same tomatoes were processed into tomato sauce, chilli or paste, a farmer can earn much more. For example, one kilogramme of tomatoes can make 750g of sauce.
With 250g of sauce going for between sh1,800 and sh2,200, this means that a farmer earns between sh5,400 and sh6,600 from a kilogramme of fresh tomatoes, which goes for sh1,000-sh1,500.
From a box of 40kg, a farmer can get 30kg of tomato sauce, earning between sh164,000 and sh198,000.
Choosing tomatoes for sauce
Any tomato that tastes good to you can be used to make tomato sauce. If you are not a farmer, you can buy the tomatoes from the nearest market, depending on what quantities you need. Smooth, round cooking tomatoes that have more juice than the oval shaped tomatoes are highly recommended.
• Sodium benzoate
• Boiler, this can be a saucepan
• Fruits slicer or just a sharp knife
Key steps for tomato sauce
• Set up assembly line processing. Prepping the tomatoes for the sauce is the most time-consuming part of this project, but if you get yourself organised before you begin, the work will move quickly.
• Set yourself up with all the tomatoes, bottoms-up on the sheet pan, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and then start peeling and slicing the tomatoes.
• If you have a food blender, you can slice and peel as they drop in the blender. A food processor or blender can be bought for as low as sh100,000. The blender is important because it eases the mixing of tomatoes. A few pulses will make a chunky sauce and longer processing will make very smooth sauce.
• You can also chop the tomatoes by hand, run them through a food mill or purée them with a stick blender after they are properly cooked.
• The cooking/boiling depends on the volumes. However, this should be for about 60 to 90 minutes (one and a half hours).
Shorter cooking times will yield a thinner sauce with a fresher tomato flavour and may not stay on the shelf longer if you are doing it commercially. Longer cooking times will thicken your sauce and give it an attractive cooked flavour.
Watch your sauce as it simmers and stop cooking when it reaches a consistency and flavour you like. Add a teaspoon of sodium benzoate before it cools.
• If you are consuming it in a day or two, you do not need preservatives. However, if it is for commercial purposes, you need to add preservatives at a rate of one teaspoon per kilogramme of sauce.
• By this time, you must have already bought your packaging materials. Small plastic bottles of 250g cost sh150-sh200 each, depending on the shape. Wait until the sauce is completely cool before you pack it in the bottles. It is also important that you properly brand your product. Branding for each bottle may cost between sh100 and sh150.
• Get what is called a Q mark (quality mark) for your product from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
Compiled by Joshua Kato (editor, Harvest Money)