A few years ago, at the beginning of August, when Sang Lee Farms in Peconic had more heirloom tomatoes than it could immediately sell, Karen Lee started making tomato soup, augmented by shitake mushrooms, as well as carrots, onions, peppers, and herbs from the farm. The popular North Road farm stand was already making kimchi, stirfry sauces, pesto and other edibles. So, when the soups sold out each week, Lee started to experiment with salsas, papery thin slowroasted tomatoes, sauces and other tomato concoctions. And to make things more interesting, she sorted these by color.
For instance, last year, the farm had a bumper crop of black plum tomatoes, which Lee cans as an alternative to standard red Marzanos and dries for salads and finger food. “They are just really delightful, a dark, dark purple, a complex fruity flavor, and small like a cherry,” said Lee, whose husband, Fred, grows about 45 varieties of heirloom tomatoes on roughly seven acres.
The farm’s Evergreens and Green Zebras make it into an all-green salsa. “It is sprightly and a bit fruity,” said Lee. The red includes more hot peppers to counterbalance the sweetness of red tomatoes.
Perhaps most distinctive are Lee’s colorcoded sauces. “It is extremely sweet and lighter in taste and less acidic than the red sauces,” she said of the ever-changing mixture of yellow and orange varieties, as well as white beefsteaks. “We don’t even add basil to the light-colored sauces so that the sweet tomato flavor can be enjoyed.” The yellow version tops shellfish and traditional pasta dishes without overwhelming them, and is sold in 32-ounce jars, along with the other tomato offerings, at the farm stand and at the East Hampton Farmers Market on North Main Street on Wednesdays. For those interested in more sampling, the farm holds an annual heirloom tomato festival during the third weekend in August. (Call 734-7001 for information.) Their tomato crop lasts through October, and the canned products usually sell out by November.