|F2F volunteer Carmen Pacheco-Borden with |
one of her training groups
"This project provided me with the opportunity to work with native Ngabe-Bugle women in two rural villages, where the potential to help and make a difference was huge. I was able to conduct hands-on training to process tomatoes in my native language. Because my family immigrated to the United States when I was twelve, improving and maintaining my Spanish has been a life-long goal. [...] In 2013, I felt my roots pulling me back and I decided to start a small Salsa and Moles farmers’ market business. Following my passion for Mexican food and reconnecting to my roots has brought many unexpected opportunities like working as a volunteer in Panama with the Ngabe-Bugle women.
We conducted four tomato-processing workshops in each community successfully. We formally trained a total of 53 individuals, including 41 females and 12 males in both communities. We learned the main steps in processing and canning: removing jars from simmering water, adding an acidifying agent, filling jars with product, measuring head space for accuracy, removing trapped air bubbles, wiping jar rims, adjusting top until fingertip-tight, placing filled jars onto a canner rack, bringing the water to a rolling boil, keeping the jars in for the entire processing period, letting jars cool for 12 hours, and finally testing the jars for a vacuum seal. Figures 1-7 show some of the key activities from the workshops.
One activity that stayed with me was teaching how to make salsa. Training to make the roasted tomato salsa to the Ngabe-Bugle community stands out in my mind; it was the look on their faces when we roasted tomatoes and peppers. What I found very interesting was that the concept of roasting tomatoes and peppers was new to them. Mexicans have been roasting tomatoes and peppers for ages. I was thrilled to see that they really liked the smoky flavor of the roasted tomato salsa. This simple yet delicious salsa is what made me start my business in the first place, and why the recruiter of the Partners of the Americas found me."
|Figure 1: Making tomato sauce using a food mill|
|Figure 2: Acidifying tomato products and measuring headspace|
|Figure 3: Blanching tomatoes for making |
peeled whole tomatoes
|Figure 4: Adjusting band until fingertip tight during|
whole tomato processing
|Figure 5: Testing jars for a vacuum seal, before dating and labeling|
|Figure 6: Roasting tomatoes and peppers|
|Figure 7: Peeling roasted peppers and tomatoes|
|Figure 8: Finished product - Roasted Tomato Salsa!|