I think few would argue that the tomato is Zimbabwe’s favourite fruit. Tomatoes are grown and consumed all over the country by people from all walks of life. The trouble with tomatoes is they do not keep very well or for very long. And given the way they are grown all over the country we are likely to experience bouts of an oversaturated market. Fortunately, tomatoes are popular in their processed forms as well and we have some business ideas based on processing tomatoes.
Sun-dried tomatoes are very popular. Mostly found in Mediterranean and European recipes they are enjoyed by many. Making sun-dried tomatoes isn’t a very complicated exercise and can be carried out. The recommended tomatoes for this process are Roma, plum and pear-shaped Italian tomatoes. At the right time of year, it can take days to get your tomatoes to a satisfactory condition. You will often find them sold in vacuum-sealed packs or sold in jars and preserved in oil with herbs and spices. There’s the potential for a few combinations here.
Tomato puree is a very popular product in all types of cooking. And there really isn’t much to making tomato puree or paste. The tomatoes are cooked with flavouring ingredients, pureed and then reduced to arrive at the thickness we know tomato paste and puree to have. You can easily store it in plastic, glass or metal containers. The puree is very popular for recipes such as pasta and pizza but also generally in stews.
Another popular product that is tomato-based is salsa which is quite similar to other local versions of this such as sumu or chakalaka. Some of these are cooked and some are not. Whichever way you choose to go with this you will find the product to be very popular. Ingredients usually include some combination of tomatoes, onions, peppers and chillies. You can package these in plastic glass or metal just like the others.
Tomato sauce and tomato ketchup combined are surely the most popular sauce in the world with only vinegar proving a more popular condiment I’m sure. The popularity of the products makes it really good go-to as a way to process and value add to tomatoes. Although the market is awash with the product you can still enter and set yourself apart from others on the market. What’s the difference between tomato sauce and tomato ketchup? Tomato sauce is with tomatoes, sugar, spices and vinegar or acetic acid. Tomato ketchup on the other hand uses oil, spices and a meat or vegetable stock.
While tomato juice is not a popular product in Zimbabwe in my observation it is popular worldwide. You will most likely have to look at an export market for this product but it is still viable. It really is as simple as juicing and straining tomatoes. Tomato juice is beloved because tomatoes possess essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. All are highly valued by those pursuing healthier dietary choices. You can use all sorts of packaging just so long as you use a method that will preserve the tomato juice.
In a country that loves tomatoes yet just enjoys their tomatoes as tomatoes canning them could be the best idea. This is also a good idea because there are many different expressions of this for you to choose from. Whole tomatoes, whole peeled, chopped, with onions, with peppers and other herbs and spices to vary the flavours. Canning is not to be taken literally here as you can preserve the tomatoes in any suitable packaging. I used the word canning because it is a more familiar method for preserving fresh tomatoes.
Passata is very similar to tomato puree but there are a few differences and you may find them appealing to customers. Unlike tomato puree, passata is made by pureeing tomatoes but not cooking them. The puree is strained of seeds and skin to give you a pure uncooked tomato puree which is favoured in many European recipes.
Not just Zimbabwe’s favourite fruit but definitely a versatile fruit. There are many ways to process and preserve tomatoes that can be employed.