As a busy mom, convenience is key when it comes to food preparation at home. As a registered dietitian, this means stocking my pantry and freezer with nutritious foods that can bring nourishing meals together in no time. One pantry staple that I’ve always had on hand is canned tomatoes. Not only do they effortlessly add some freshness and flavor to many recipes, they also offer a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. What’s better than that? Well, as a more environmentally friendly option, steam peeled tomatoes take it to the next level! Since we’re so passionate about sustainability here at KJN, we were excited to learn about all of the benefits of steam peeled tomatoes and have been stocking our pantries with all of the varieties since.
This post is written in partnership with Pacific Coast Producers, a leader in steam peeled tomato production. Thanks to them for making it possible to distribute this information! As always, I only engage in partnerships with those who’s philosophies align with my own.
Sustainability of Steam Peeled Tomatoes
If you’re at all like me, knowing that your food choices have a positive impact on people and the planet makes eating even more enjoyable. When it comes to Pacific Coast Producers’ steam peeled tomatoes, I love knowing I’m getting a high quality USA grown and packed product.
Location is where the sustainability starts, since the climate is already ideal for growing canned tomatoes in Woodland, CA. After being harvested in peak season, from August to October, the tomatoes are rinsed from the truck using recycled water. On top of that, 95% of Pacific Coast Producers’ tomato growers are within 17 miles of the facility, allowing them to can the tomatoes within 5 hours of when they’re picked at peak freshness. The short distance between the farms and the facility cuts down on transportation and storage needs.
When the tomatoes are processed in the facility, the efficient steaming process maximizes available resources. What’s even better is the food waste considerations: 100% of the tomato is used! The peels are recovered for tomato paste and similar products, while the juice is recovered for relevant items in our food system. Evaporated tomato water is used for the steaming itself., and since no chemicals are used in the process, overall water waste is lower.
Aside from the benefits of steam peeling, purchasing canned tomatoes is a sustainable choice, reducing food waste and improving recycling. 0% of tomatoes are wasted in the canning process versus the 38% of fresh wasted before making it to the grocery store. Steel cans are also one of the most recycled products in our food system.
How Steam Peeled Tomatoes are Processed
Since I’ve always used canned tomatoes, it was an easy change to start looking for “steam peeled” on the label when shopping. When you buy private label (store brand) canned steam peeled tomatoes, chances are they were harvested and processed by the Pacific Coast Producers agricultural cooperative, including 17 tomato growers. When their tomatoes travel to the canning facility, they go through a 3 step steaming process before they’re cut or juiced, their peels pureed, seasonings are added and they’re ready to be packed in cans and sealed.
For the steaming process itself, first, the varieties grown specifically for canning are steamed. A high heat is applied that loosens the tomato skins and creates a vapor inside. This quickly steam cooks the tomato flesh while retaining taste and nutrition. Next, a precise vacuum pressure is applied to gently separate the skin from the tomatoes. Finally, specialized equipment removes the loose skin from the whole tomato and, as mentioned, is sent to be used in other products. This is optimal peeling technology to maintain a high quality texture and color versus other abrasive peeling methods!
Nutrients in Canned Tomatoes
While steam peeled tomatoes retain optimal texture and color and the Mediterranean climate of California provides fertile soil, canned tomatoes in general have some known benefits.
Once tomatoes are harvested, they are at their peak in terms of nutrient density. By canning them in just hours, these nutrients are locked in and maintained.
Canned tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and potassium while also offering iron, fiber, and beta-carotene, the plant form of Vitamin A. Additionally, they pack in 2.5 times more of the phytochemical lycopene than fresh tomatoes!
Varieties of Steam Peeled Tomatoes
After the steaming process, tomatoes are either kept whole, diced, or sliced. Some of the whole tomatoes are also made into sauces, paste, juice, pizza sauces, and many more items. Based on the recipes we regularly rotate through, my personal favorite varieties to keep in the pantry are whole peeled, diced with green chiles, and petite diced. But, there’s many more possibilities to fit your needs including stewed, crushed, and sauce as well as fire roasted, with basil, and chili ready.
To learn more about steam peeled tomatoes and to find them near you, click here! And stay tuned for some new easy canned tomato recipes to fuel your active lifestyle.