Women in Bauchi have devised a way of processing and preserving tomato paste locally for sale or consumption at home in times of scarcity.
Checks by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reveal that whereas those who sell the paste make appreciable profit, those who preserve same for domestic consumption save a lot of money.
According to some of the housewives interviewed by NAN in Bauchi, the process of preparation is simple and keeps the taste and freshness of the paste for as long as three months or even beyond.
They said those interested had the option of preparing either tomato paste alone or “tomapep” paste, a combination of fresh tomatoes mixed with pepper and onion.
Adama Balteh, who explained the process, said the first step was to buy a large quantity of fresh tomatoes, grind same and boil to remove liquid from it completely.
“As you boil the grinded tomatoes to remove liquid, you also wash and boil the containers to be used in preserving the paste; the containers must be durable and airtight.
“Most of us use salad cream bottles (Bama), which are thoroughly washed and boiled (covers removed) for five minutes.
“Bottles that cannot withstand the pressure will crack and will therefore, be eliminated, leaving only those qualitative enough for the preservation of the paste.
“The hot tomatoes completely drained of its liquid, is then poured into the equally hot bottles, added a pinch of salt and small quantity of oil, and then closed airtight to prevent the infiltration of micro-organisms.
“These bottles containing the paste are again boiled in hot water for five to 10 minutes, after which they are removed and kept in safe place for sale in future to make reasonable profit, or used at home to cut cost in times of scarcity,” she said.
According to her, an average size basket of tomatoes that sells for N1,000 during period of harvest in Bauchi , can provide about 30 ‘Bama’ bottles of fresh paste.
Another housewife, Saadatu Mohammed, said she had been in the business for the past three years and has never experienced any disappointment.
“It can be used to generate income, but most importantly, one can use the preservation method to prune down domestic budget on tomatoes during time of scarcity, while at the same time guaranteeing family consumption of fresh tomatoes,” she said.
Also commenting on the advantages of the method, Rukayya Ibrahim told NAN that the locally preserved paste were better that tin tomatoes ‘in taste and everything’, but warned that the preparation and preservation process must be ‘ strictly adhered to’.
“Any time you discover ‘bubbles’ in your preserved paste means there is a mistake somewhere , as such the process has collapsed; your best bet at this point, is to consume it to avoid wastage,” she said.
A housewife, Hajara Jibrin, said with N3,000 tomatoes, she was able to make profit of N7,000.
“With N3,000 worth of tomatoes, I was able to produce 20 bottles of preserved paste and each bottle costs between N500 and N800 in times of scarcity, enabling me to make a profit of at least N7,000,” she said.
NAN reports that in times of scarcity, an average size basket of tomatoes in Bauchi costs at least N25,000.
Those engaged in the business of preservation of the paste locally, buy tomatoes and process same during the period of harvest when the cost of an average basket is between N600 and N1000.
They then process same and preserve for at least three months.