Patty Newth refused to leave Italy without getting two things: a pair of beautiful Italian boots and cooking lessons.
After a long career as a diagnostic X-ray technician, Patty wanted to do something as far from the health care field as possible. In 2010, she enrolled in some writing courses at Portland Community College and was thrilled with the opportunity to study abroad in Florence.
Patty already loved to cook and had recently gotten certified as a Master Food Preserver. She took 14 credit hours in Italy, and the study abroad program included several day-trip excursions, including one to Siena, a small city in the hills of Tuscany.
After lunch that day, Patty wandered to a small farmers market.
“I wanted to see how much their truffles were,” she says. “And they were horribly expensive, of course. But this woman had some jams for sale and one of them was tomato jam.”
It was a tantalizing discovery. Sweet like a jam, with a zest of spice, it could be spread, dripped or used as a paste. Patty took some home to Portland.
The following summer, Patty had a bumper crop of tomatoes in her home garden. The memory of that Italian tomato jam still fresh, she made some of her own. Friends and family raved. She continued to fine-tune her recipe and enrolled in Getting Your Recipe to Market, a collaboration between PCC's Small Business Development Center, the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center and New Seasons Market.
The intensive 14-week class, now available online through the OSU Extension Service, helped Patty turn her tomato jam into a business: Beautiful Tomato. She’s sold her product at the Beaverton Farmers Market, and it’s now available at New Seasons Market.
“The class answered questions about things I didn’t even know I needed to know,” Patty says. “How to get insurance; how to source your food; where to get packaging.”
Patty is already working to create new products.
“My jam is kind of a sweet, hot jam that you can use for a lot of things, but I want to do a savory thing with garlic and onions and capers,” she says.
Patty’s favorite way to eat her jam is on a grilled cheese sandwich with artisan cheeses and bread, but she encourages everyone to experiment and find what they like.
Patty hopes to grow Beautiful Tomato into a successful business that she can one day hand off to her daughter. She believes that’s possible in Portland, where people are receptive to new business ideas – especially when it comes to food.
“If you have a desire and a dream to do something, all the tools are out there for you to take advantage of,” she says. “And in this state, and with the help of Oregon State University and the Food Innovation Center, there is room for new ideas and for everyone to pursue their dreams.”