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Overwhelmed with tomatoes?

Depending on where you live, it’s easy to feel that it takes FOR…EV…ER for the tomatoes to even form, much less get big, and get (whatever color your tomatoes get – we’re “spoiled for choice” as they say these days, with colors ranging from purple to yellow and every color in between except for blue). After last year’s debacle with ‘late blight’ (and I’ve already heard a couple of rumors that this has been seen on tomato plants about three hours west of us), we dug out the bed we’d tried to grow tomatoes in last year and threw away the soil at the back of the property, brought in all new compost for the bed and then moved tomato-growing operations to an entirely new bed for this year. between the hot and dry weather we had in July and some judicious mulching and watering when things had gone too long dry, we’ve already gotten a lot of plum and salad tomatoes.

But, what to do with them? Some of my most depressing moments in the kitchen (and as hard as it is to believe, Aunt Toby has moments of domestic self-loathing just like everyone else) have been in the middle of an August or early September heat wave, with the sauce on the stove and the canner going as well, and sweat dripping down my face (anyone wanting to excuse themselves may do so now), the sink full of washed tomatoes and three humongous bowls of freshly picked tomatoes sitting out on the counter. This is usually accompanied by the sound of the DH’s voice gaily wafting from the garden, “Hey – we missed a lot out here; I’ll pick them so the slugs won’t get them!”

Yep. Those are moments when a shower at the Bates Motel has a certain charm.

However, a bit of creativity and outright avoidance will get us through.
First: Drying.
One of the best ideas we had several years ago was to get an electric food dehydrator. We use this for just about everything that can be cut up and then used later, whether it’s fruit, veggies, onions, you name it. We had a lovely appetizer in an Italian restaurant on our last trip to Edinburgh, Scotland (vs Edinburgh, PA), which consisted of little tomatoes which had been dried and preserved with garlic in olive oil, accompanied by thin slices of mozzarella cheese. This works especially well with tomatoes such as Princip Borgese, but being a totally classless American, I did it with cherry and grape tomatoes. Same great ‘summer in a bottle’ flavor.

Second: Freezing.
Don’t ask me where we got this technique, but we’ve been using it for fruit for years and it works for really any veggie also that is not too watery (for example, it will not work with things like zucchini – to freeze summer squashes such as these, grate them up, squeeze out the excess water, bag up and freeze for things like baked goods later). What we do for tomatoes is slightly different but the theory is the same: Cut up the fruit in question, lay out on cookie sheets, leaving space in between, and put in the freezer. When they are completely frozen, take off the cookie sheet (you might need to pry them off with a spatula), put into bags or other freezer containers and seal. If you are using ziplock(tm) bags, close almost all the way and suck out the air. The fruit will still stay in separate pieces.

For tomatoes, there is just one small additional thing to do: once you’ve cut them up in pieces (and with a big tomato, you should be cutting it up into 6-8 pieces; with a plum tomato, probably 4 pieces), use a spoon and get out as much of the “gishy” gelatinous stuff inside as you can. In freezing this will be very watery when you defrost. But freezing is a great way to keep tomatoes for when you want to do something later. Later in the fall, when it’s cooler, the garden is done and when you need tomatoes OR, you actually want to do a bit of canning or make sauce or whatever, you just pull out the bags, throw the tomatoes in a pot and off you go. You can cook up whatever you want and serve or cook it up and using the directions on your canner, can it up then.
A bit of summer when you least expect it.

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One Comment

  1. Auntie Allyn says:

    Brilliant . . . I never thought of freezing fresh tomatoes! I freeze all kinds of fresh fruit in a similar manner with great success and will definitely try this method for tomatoes.

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