The Charm of Sloppy Seconds

sloppy seconds

Waking up before 9am on Saturday has a few perks, most of them edible. Working at the farmers market, at least my gig there, isn’t strenuous. Eager shoppers, without cash, walk up to the Manager’s Table, pass me their debit card, I swipe while asking them to sign up for our newsletter and hand them the appropriate amount of tokens.

I tweet fruit observations and celebrity sightings, gobble up sun gold tomatoes and more or less banter with strangers about food for a few hours.

And then I get to take home the good stuff. Well, not exactly the good stuff. Really the free, almost rotting stuff. Ten pounds of bruised and battered tomatoes. Tomatoes slit apart and oozing juice and seeds. Tomatoes on just this side of rotten.

These seconds, as they’re dubbed at the market, need to be loved and loved quickly. I had less than 24 hours to make the most of out of them.

Part I


Three-Hour Tomato Sauce

From about 5 pounds of “second” tomatoes cut out the rotten and smelly bits, roughly chop the rest. In a large pan heat diced onions and garlic in oil. Add chopped tomatoes. Any breed will do. Add red wine (I used just old red wine from a box. As my dad noted, this was an “almost bad” sauce. But I’m not sure that’s the most appealing name for something edible.) Stir. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, then lower to a slight simmer. Cover half the pot. Stir every 20-30 minutes or so. When reduced and thick, about three hours, take off the stove and immersion blend to desired smoothness. Toss with pasta. Scoop up with garlic bread.

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  • Maids August 3, 2010  

    So I have a little bit of a grudge against one of the Mt. P farmer’s market vendors: I bought a tomato placed in their heirloom tomato section a few weeks back (after having sampled a delicious bit of red heirloom with a yellowish center put on display). When I got home and cut open the tomato, it had no golden center and in fact tasted like a very normal, non-heirloom tomato. Ugh. I was sooo disappointed and felt not a little ripped off.

  • BS August 3, 2010  

    someone recently told me that some farmers’ markets will let you do this even if you’re not working there. Show up at the end of the day and offer them something like $5 for all the banged up tomatoes they have left (they don’t want to truck them back home). Then make yourself a whole bunch of tomato sauce and throw it in the freezer.

  • belmontmedina August 3, 2010  

    Some will let you, some won’t. We usually give ours to the food pantry that comes around at Mt. P. (Some of the vendors like them too)

  • JoeHoya August 3, 2010  

    I’m something of a “seconds” (or “mashers,” as one farmer calls them) aficionado when it comes to DC-area farmers’ markets, and I’ve got the gazpacho recipe to prove it.

    When I first started inquiring about seconds, many of the farmers I spoke to at the H Street and Penn Quarter markets were happy to let me take my pick for free, just glad to see that the tomatoes were being put to good use and not thrown out.

    Since then, it seems like the interest in heirlooms and a trend toward frugality have combined to significantly increase demand for seconds. Most of the farmers I’ve visited at recent markets – Courthouse, Dupont Circle, by the White House, Bloomingdale – now sell their seconds for roughly half price. It’s a good compromise, in my opinion. The farmer still gets something for their produce and I get some quality tomatoes at MUCH better prices.

    Of course now I have to compete with everyone else for them…

    My latest tomato adventure? I bought a 25-pound box of tomatoes (non-heirloom) from Garner’s at the Bloomingdale Market on Sunday (they were also selling them at the Mount Pleasant market on Saturday). The cost? $12, or roughly fifty cents a pound!

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