"We told the boys to go out into grocery stores and think about something they might be able to put on shelves. They came back and noticed that most stores just carry generic ketchups," says John Gordon, Boys Grow executive director. "I had been working on a farm in California last September and saw they just put agave on everything, and it went from there."
The ketchup, released last month, is already in six stores (downtown and Brookside Cosentino's, Pryde's of Westport, McGonigle's Market, Whole Foods and Clearly Nature's Own) alongside the organization's Salsa Orgullo. The boys' produce — currently kale, onions and cucumbers — is on the menu at five area restaurants, the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Fud, among them. A half-dozen boys from the program will be at Succotash (2601 Holmes), which has the Agave Ketchup on its menu, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., handing out samples of the ketchup and talking to diners about the program.
After the group decided to make ketchup, Gordon and two boys worked on 15 different batches in one night at a kitchen in a West Side community center. Tomato paste and tomatoes (some from the Boys Grow garden) formed the base of the recipe. Condiment tasting proved to be a grueling process.
"I thought I was done with ketchup for a little bit," Gordon jokes, "but I still enjoy working with youth."
The three best batches were then brought back to the larger group, who sampled the options and picked a favorite. After that, Boys Grow headed to Original Juan to design a product suitable for bottling. The ketchup was tweaked slightly, adding sugar to help thicken it. The ketchup retails for between $4.25 and $5.50 for a 16 oz. Mason jar.