The Toscana Farm Stand is a great source for produce for anyone headed up to Tagaytay or Batangas that passes through the Santa Rosa to Tagaytay Road. By the way, there is a terrific less congested exit just after the Santa Rosa exit on the South Superhighway that avoids the traffic, try it. Located about halfway up from Paseo de Santa Rosa near the Laguna Technopark and the rotunda in Tagaytay, this â€œfarmstandâ€ is located to one side of a Caltex station on the South side of the road. On recent visits they had an impressive array of produce on offer, most of it grown on their own farms/greenhouses â€“ large eggplants great for parmigiana, vine-ripened tomatoes (but greenhouse raised), yellow and red bell peppers (capsicum), potted herbs, melons, papayas, lettuce, etc. Prices are a little less than retail in Manila.
Toscana started supplying vegetables under the 1st Pick label to large metro grocery stores and wholesale shopping stores a couple of years ago. They were well-received and their produce was flying off the shelves. Part of the attraction was that they did in fact, look like the produce had been â€œselectedâ€. So where would Toscana sell the produce that didnâ€™t quite make the cut? At a roadside â€œfarm standâ€ on the way up to Tagaytay, just 10-15 minutes from their actual farm and greenhouses. While it may have started out this way (in the beginning the tomatoes here were noticeably smaller than those at Pricesmart, for example), the â€œfarm standâ€ has since built a clientele of its own, and more substantial volume, so itâ€™s looking less and less like a â€œsecondsâ€ stall. The tomatoes are still generally smaller here but they are ripe, and most importantly, they have never seen the chiller or refrigerator so they have the best possible flavor and texture for a greenhouse or hydroponically raised tomato. Never keep tomatoes in a refrigerator, just leave them out on the kitchen counter for the best flavor.
At the start, the stall was extremely erratic both in operating hours and produce for sale. In the last few months, however, it seems they are almost always open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with a good selection of produce, especially early in the day. If I am headed to Batangas (through Tagaytay) I always try to stop by the Toscana stand to pick up tomatoes for salads, fresh herbs, and capsicum to throw on the barbecue grill. A few weeks ago, I was stunned to find potted (in plastic bags, actually) live thyme! A nice bushy specimen and they wanted P180 for it. I love thyme but I simply cannot seem to keep it alive in our garden. They also had a fairly well formed fennel bulb/plant and a very healthy Italian parsley plant both at P180 as well. sometimes they also carry small honeydew (green) melons. I have tried them twice but they weren’t terrific. Maybe I just got bum specimens. On the way home from the beach I also pass by the stand to stock up on produce to be consumed during the week in Manila.
Folks headed up for the day or a weekend in Tagaytay, wondering what to bring their hosts need to look no further. Just pack a nice bottle of olive oil, perhaps some balsamic vinegar and a few hunks of carabao (buffalo) mozzarella, then pass by Toscana and load up on tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Grill the peppers on arrival and peel (see my entry on capsicums), slice tomatoes and cheese, arrange on a platter and add some shredded basil. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. This is a yummy starter to lunch or dinner and pairs well with grilled meats, pasta, baked chicken, etc. If you want to do a whole meal, roast a chicken in the oven with lemon and fresh thyme. Much better than those crochetted toilet paper holders with storage for extra roll that some people like to bring…