Tomato Time!

Where to find the best Tomatoes for your Tomato Sauce in Montreal

a family affair

If you’re not Italian, but have Italian friends, you’ve probably noticed that every September they have a designated weekend to “do the tomatoes” and there is absolutely no flexibility on that. They have to be there.

Tomato time is usually a family affair and every member has their critical role in the process (there’s a nice analogy in there about our critical roles in our families in general, but that’s for another time).

What is “tomato time”? What, exactly, is everyone doing when they “do the tomatoes”?

a bowl of tomato in montreal
Tomatos on a kitchen table

jar of preserved sunshine

Many Italian families can fresh tomatoes at the end of the summer to be used year round. The result is jar after jar of preserved sunshine, which is one of the secrets to truly irresistible Italian home cooking.

Every family’s technique may be a little different. Some preserve straight tomatoes, others add a garlic clove, sprig of fresh basil, olive oil and/or some onion, some can them whole or diced, others crush or puree them first and many prepare a basic tomato sauce to preserve.

Where can you get such huge quantities?

But all start by sourcing huge amounts of fresh, ripe tomatoes, then peeling and coring pound after pound of them.

You can use practically any type of tomato, but Roma tomatoes are most common, with San Marzano tomatoes being the gold standard.

Where can you get such huge quantities?

You won’t find the large quantities needed at typical grocery stores, but most farmers markets are well prepared for “tomato time” each year. Here are a few places to check out if you want to jump on the tomato bandwagon:

Where can you get such huge quantities?

  • Potager Mont-Rouge Halte Gourmande – This incredible farm in Rougemont is the perfect place to make a day of it. You can simply buy your tomatoes, or pick them yourself! They grow a huge variety of tomatoes including the coveted San Marzano and several varieties of heirloom. Be sure to bring the whole family because there’s a wagon ride, corn maze and tons of fun and games!
  • Jean Talon Market – Jean Talon is one of the city’s largest outdoor markets with many stalls offering up locally grown tomatoes. The sellers at Jean Talon know all about tomato time and take full advantage. As soon as crops are ready, you’ll start seeing stacks and stacks of tomato flats for sale. Don’t miss it!
  • Milano – Located in Little Italy, Milano’s was Montreal’s first Italian grocery store, so it stands to reason that this would be an ideal place to get some of the best Italian tomatoes available. If you can’t make it out to Little Italy, you can also order your tomatoes from their online store.  
  • Mayrand Food Depot – This warehouse shopping experience in Anjou does not require a membership and features a huge fresh fruit and vegetable section with multiple varieties of tomatoes. Make sure you have plenty of trunk space because you can buy a LOT here.
a wooden table with different types of Tomatos on it

ready to jump into canning ?

If you’re not ready to jump into canning (it is very effort intensive – though it pays off year-round), you may want to start by making a single batch of fresh, homemade tomato sauce using ripe plum tomatoes. This is a great recipe for beginners to start with. It might just get you hooked ;-)

Do you and your family have a favourite place to get your tomatoes or a favourite canning recipe? Share your tips in the comments!

Images source: Instagram: @taou & @mtltips &