Peyton Martin - Dec. 11th 2020
How to utilize tomatoes after harvest
No matter how you like your tomatoes — fresh sliced, canned, or made into sauces — harvest time is party time in the garden, But one person can only eat so many tomatoes right off of the vine—and with the number of recipes out there (thanks, Pinterest!) you can get lost on how to cook with your tomatoes! Is there such a thing as, “too many tomatoes?” We don’t think so! Try out these simple ways to utilize and save your tomato harvest to its full potential .
OUR TOMATO SEED COLLECTION
Storing Your harvest
Should You Store Tomatoes in the Refrigerator?
Wash and dry your tomato harvests before storing. Unless you’re planning to store your tomatoes for over a week, a windowsill, countertop or bowl works fine. If you know you won’t use them in the next few days, then lower temperatures (a cool entryway, the refrigerator) will help preserve the fruit. Contrary to our common practice in the US, storing in a refrigerator is not otherwise recommended, as the cooler temperatures can reduce flavor and cause mushiness. Your fresh-picked tomatoes will last longer on the kitchen counter than store-bought ones, which are probably a few days old when you get them. Chilling stops ripening in its tracks, so unless your tomatoes are at their absolute peak of ripeness, you’ll never get a ripe tomato. However, if you have perfectly ripe tomatoes that you just don’t have time to use at that moment, you can store them in the fridge. A ripe tomato can last a day or two in the fridge without ill effects. Don’t leave them to cool longer than a couple of days. Chilled tomatoes will start to dehydrate, so kiss that juicy tomato slice goodbye. Also, the flesh of the tomato will get mealy or mushy. That being said, you should always eat tomatoes at room temperature for optimum flavor and texture. Just let them warm up to room temperature before slicing and putting on a salad or sandwich.
How to Store Tomatoes That Aren’t Ripe
Skip the fridge if tomatoes aren’t ripe. Store them at room temperature, instead. While it’s pretty to put tomatoes on a windowsill, you’re better off keeping your tomatoes in the basement or a cupboard. You want the tomatoes to continue to ripen after being picked, but you don’t want them to go so quickly that they’ll start to spoil. Since these beauties are so delicate, you’ll also want to keep them in one single layer so their weight doesn’t crush their neighbors. If one does get a little smushed, use it before it causes the others to rot. Air movement is also key when it comes to freshness. A plate or wicker basket allows air to move around the tomatoes, resulting in slightly longer life. Store tomatoes with the stems down. This helps prevent moisture from escaping through the stem. It also may help prevent any mold growth around the stem.
Methods to Storing Tomatoes Long-Term
- Put extra garden tomatoes in a plastic freezer bag and store in your freezer. To use in soup, stew or sauce, just hold the frozen tomatoes under warm water, and the skins will slip right off. Drop the whole skinless tomatoes into the pot-they’ll break up during cooking, which also saves time chopping. —Elaine T., Palmetto, Florida
- When our garden is producing a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, I make tomato “muffins.” I ladle peeled and cored tomatoes into muffin pans and pop them in the freezer. When they’re solid, I take the tomatoes out of the pans and slip them into plastic bags, so they’re ready to add to soups, chili and other recipes. —Barbara Kynock, Centreville, Nova Scotia
- To quickly use a huge supply of garden tomatoes, I wash and core them, then puree in the blender with lemon juice, onion and celery to taste. This makes a great vegetable juice. I simmer several batches until slightly thickened for spaghetti sauce or until very thick for pizza sauce. I store it in the freezer. —Marion W., Greenfield, Wisconsin
How To Use Your Harvested Tomatoes
By roasting a tomato, you can make them a little sweeter and softer, and they make for great side dishes. If you want to roast tomatoes but have too many to eat in one sitting, you can always jar them after you roast them. Just take off the peel and mash into a jar with some olive oil and a dash of salt the sauce you get will be a touch sweeter than most and makes for a very savory spread.
- Preheat your oven to 450° F (230° C). Place a piece of aluminum foil over a baking sheet.
- Place grape tomatoes or sliced tomatoes and minced garlic into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then spread evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the tomatoes in the oven until the skins pop and start to brown, approximately 15 - 20 minutes.
2. Can, Can, Can!
You can also preserve tomatoes by canning. Some families pass down canning recipes from generation to generation, but if yours is one that didn’t, you don’t have to feel alone – the world of canning is right at your fingertips with the age of the Internet!
Canning is actually quite easy, and you can make so many different things just with tomatoes and a few basic ingredients and seasonings. Make your own pizza sauce, pasta sauce, cooked salsa, chili sauces, and more! Just be sure you have the right equipment and carefully follow current canning guidelines.
3. Freeze Tomatoes Until a Later Date
If canning really isn’t your thing, you can always freeze your tomatoes instead. You can freeze whole tomatoes until you’re ready to use them for making sauce or soup. Store them in freezable containers or bags, and they’ll keep for up to 3 or 4 months. Use throughout chilly winter months and be careful they don’t get freezer burn.
4. Dry Tomatoes for a Savory Snack
If you’re feeling adventurous and have some time (ok, a lot of time), you can even dehydrate your tomatoes! To dry them, you can use your oven or a food dehydrator. Once dried, store in an airtight container or bag. Add dried tomatoes to pastas, salads, soups, and more! They can also be packed in pure olive oil with herbs and spices to be enjoyed on their own as a snack, or served with antipasto.
- Preheat your oven to 200° F (94° C). Place a piece of parchment paper over a baking sheet.
- Cut tomatoes in halves (quarters, if large), and trim stem ends. Remove pulp, seeds, and excess juice.
- Arrange tomatoes evenly on the baking sheet, cut-side up, ensuring they are not touching or over-crowded.
- Lightly season with salt, and put the tomatoes in the oven for a minimum of 6 hours. Larger tomatoes, or tomatoes that naturally contain more juice can take up to 12 hours to dry. Dried tomatoes should not be crispy or crunchy--they should look leathery, but still be rather pliable.