CHICOPEE – Jessica Tudryn Wisniewski understands the intricate process of bringing harvested vegetables to a family’s table.
While studying chemistry at Elms College, Wisniewski had a dream – to market her mother’s “delicious sweet zucchini relish.”
After graduating from the Elms in 2002, Wisniewski soon embarked on a whirlwind range of food industry jobs at major corporations, including as a quality lab technician at Minute Maid, a food safety coordinator for Conagra Foods, a quality assurance supervisor for Good Humor/Breyers Ice Cream, and later a manufacturing supervisor, and then a quality system engineer for Eddy’s Ice Cream.
“I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t mentally challenged,” she said during a recent interview with Reminder Publications at the Atkins Farms Country Store in Amherst, one of the locations where she sells her Relish the Harvest gourmet products.
As a child, Wisniewski explained that her father, Deacon Ted Tudryn, would grow the vegetables each summer for her mother, Elizabeth Tudryn, to make the relish.
“I would ask my mother to make enough to enjoy throughout the winter,” she said, adding, “My favorite dish to add the relish on was macaroni and cheese.”
Wisniewski, now married with a family of her own, learned the importance early in life with her parent’s guidance about maintaining a field to grow hardy crops.
“I grew up on an agricultural farm so I was always weeding the farm land or picking blueberries,” she said.
Today, she works closely with several local farms including The Bars Farm in Deerfield for its jalapeno peppers, the Joe Czajkowski Farm in Hadley for its zucchini, the Warner Farm in Sunderland for its peppers and the Manheim Farm in Deerfield for its zucchini, to ensure she is receiving the best quality and freshest produce for her three products – Sweet Zucchini Relish, Sweet & Hot Zucchini Relish and Hot Pepper Spread.
“I audit the vegetables closely and trust the farmers because of their years of experience and the fact they do not use pesticides,” she said.
When Wisniewski participates in food festivals she always brings a comparison sheet of her products compared to the well-known national brands.
“Clinical studies have shown that polysorbate 80 can increase the risk of serious side effects and death in some cases,” said Wisniewski, noting that national brands have that ingredient listed on their label among other chemical additives.
Wisniewski also noted that her research of food dyes and food preservatives added to national brands can have side effects of salicylates that can increase the risk for hyperactivity, such as ADHD/ADD, and other mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression or aggressive behavior and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
“Our products are produced with the highest quality ingredients and do not have any artificial ingredients,” she said, adding, “Both visually appealing and tastefully delicious, you will be able to taste the fresh ingredients.”
The Sweet Zucchini Relish, from her mother’s original recipe, was the first product Wisniewski brought to market in 2010.
“The relish has a homemade flavor that tantalizes the taste buds causing a savoring experience,” she said. “It is so low in sugar, it is diabetic friendly. It is very low in sodium too.”
Her second product, Sweet & Hot Zucchini Relish, came to market in 2011.
“The relish is the best of both worlds,” she said. “Its flavor begins with a sweet sensation and after a few seconds the heat sneaks in. It has a comfortable heat and is low in sugar and sodium.”
Her third product, Hot Pepper Spread, was released in 2013.
“The spread is jam packed with peppers and is sweetened with honey,” she said. “This has the lowest glycemic index compared to any other spread or jam that I can find on the market. Also, it has no sodium.”
Wisniewski’s production schedule falls between the end of July through mid-September, depending on weather conditions and when the vegetables are ready for harvest. Wisniewski currently uses the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Facility at the Franklin County Community Development Center for her business. With assistance from her husband Bill, Wisniewski employs five temporary workers to create her three products.
Currently, her products can be purchased at Table & Vine, with locations in West Springfield and Northampton; Randall’s in Ludlow; Serios Market in Northampton; State Street Market in Northampton; Fresh Acres in Springfield; Whole Foods in Hadley as well as locations across New England, and at Big Y Foods, Inc., in Northampton, Southampton, Greenfield, South Hadley and Amherst.
Wisniewski also listens to her customers and enjoys meeting them at local festivities and markets.
“I take into consideration what people want,” she said, adding she is always finding ways to transform bland foods and soups into something “exciting.”
She will be at the Red Fire Farm’s annual Tomato Festival on Aug. 22 in Granby, offering free samples and selling her jars of relishes and hot pepper spread.
In her Chicopee kitchen, Wisniewski continues to concoct more ideas about relishes to add to her all-natural gourmet line.
“My only hint for the next product is to expect a savory relish with zucchini,” she said, noting that zucchini is a super food because of its high fiber content, as well as Vitamin A, C and D.
Wisniewski is a member of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and her business is profiled under Local Hero Specialty Producers in the 2015 CISA Farm Products Guide. Her gourmet products are available for sale on her website, www.relishtheharvest.com. Relish the Harvest is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RelishtheHarvest.
“My hope is to awaken one’s palate and to show that healthy ingredients taste better,” she said.