Make the most of Your Tomato Harvest
Thanks to an extra-long Spring season this year, our gardens have been especially generous and now we have an overabundance of vegetables – especially our beefsteak tomatoes.
This new series will discuss how to use up that extra produce in your garden. Let’s start with what you can do with excess tomatoes. Tomatoes are a summer garden favorite and extremely versatile.
You can toss them into your dinner dishes, eat them raw and sliced, place them on top of your pizza, etc., but if you find yourself surrounded by bushels of them, sometimes it is hard to figure out what to do with them.
Here are six ways that you can store and use your tomatoes, and I have included some recipes.
1. Give Extra Tomatoes Away – Giving extra tomatoes to friends, family, and co-workers is always a good idea because nothing can beat that garden-grown, sun-kissed taste of fresh tomatoes. After gifting if you still have tomatoes left, try donating to a homeless shelter or a church that gives to those in the community that are in need. You could also contact a local senior center and find seniors that need help stretching their budget. Having a garden is a blessing and an excellent way to extend your blessing to other people.
2. Freeze Tomatoes – Tomatoes freeze easily and you can even get away with not blanching them. All you need to do is rinse, put them into a freezer bag or container, and then place them into your freezer. When you are ready to use them, rinse each tomato with warm water. You will notice the skin comes right off, and then it can be used in soups and sauces. I slice them in half and scoop out the seeds and remove the spot where the stem used to be. Be sure not to thaw them first because they turn squishy.
3. Can Tomatoes – You can make your own whole, halved, diced, or crushed tomatoes canned tomatoes. Due to the high acid content of tomatoes, water bath canning is perfect for canned tomatoes.
Read more about water bath canning here. Here is how to do it.
- 13-lbs tomatoes
- 9 tbs concentrated lemon juice
- Wash and score the tomatoes. Blanch the tomatoes by dropping them in a pot of boiling water for approximately one minute.
- Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place them in an ice-water bath. Peel off the skin when the tomatoes are cool enough to handle.
- Add 2 tbs lemon juice per quart or 1 tbs per pint.
- Fill each hot, sterilized jar with peeled, whole, halved, diced, or crushed tomatoes, and be sure to include their juices, and leave ½- to ¾-inch headspace from the top.
- Remove air bubbles by running a knife along the side of the jar, and then wipe the rims clean.
- Place a sterilized lid and then screw on the canning bands until they are finger tight.
- Process the tomatoes in a hot water bath. (The recommended process time for my area is one hour and 25 minutes, but that varies by altitude, so double-check yours.)
- Remove the jars and allow them to cool before storing.
4. Pickle the Tomatoes – Did you know that you can make refrigerator pickled cherry tomatoes? I can’t think of a better addition to a Fourth of July picnic or beach gathering. You could also add this to a charcuterie board.
So go out and gather up a mixture of colorful tomatoes. My favorites for pickling are the yellow and red pear cherry tomatoes. Yum!
- 8 oz yellow pear cherry tomatoes
- 8 oz red pear cherry tomatoes
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 4 sprigs of fresh dill
- 1 tbs black peppercorns
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbs Himalayan Sea salt or pickling salt
- 1 cup water
- Remove any stems or leaves from your freshly picked tomatoes and poke small holes into each of them.
- Next, divide the tomatoes between two, 16-oz mason jars. Add 2 fresh dill sprigs per jar and 1 rosemary sprig.
- Divide the peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and garlic between the two jars.
- Bring the ingredients for the brine to a boil over high heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove the brine mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
- Pour the brine mixture over the tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and dill.
- Cover with a tight lid and chill for two days.
- Store in your refrigerator for up to two months.
5. Make Delicious Sauces – Who doesn’t love sauces made with garden-fresh vegetables. You can make homemade marinara sauce or try one of my favorite tomato sauce recipes. My kids love it!
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Any blemish-free, firm-flesh tomato from your garden or from a farmer’s market can be used to make homemade tomato sauce. If your tomato has a blemish spot, then cut off the blemishes before using. Traditional Italian recipes call for a Roma tomato because they have thicker skin, firmer flesh, and less moisture. You can even use colored tomatoes for a colorful heirloom tomato sauce. I love to make homemade tomato sauce with my frozen tomatoes, and I am positive that you will too.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 diced onion
- 20-24 crushed frozen tomatoes
- 14-oz tomato sauce
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 sprig of fresh basil
- 1 parmesan rind
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a Dutch oven, combine the olive oil and garlic cloves in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic has softened and turned a golden brown. Once they have turned golden, remove them from the pot and set them aside for later. Add the onion to the oil and cook until translucent. Add the crushed tomatoes.
- I like to hand crush them. It’s easy since the tomatoes were previously frozen. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Chop the reserved garlic and add it to the sauce.
- Stir in the parmesan rind and add the basil. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it has deepened in color and reduced slightly or reached a thickness that you prefer. I cook it on low heat to keep it from burning, and I stir occasionally for a few hours. Frozen tomatoes hold extra water, so it takes a little while to cook off the extra water content.
- When the sauce is ready, discard the parmesan rind and basil.
- If you are serving right away, top it with fresh basil and parmesan cheese If you aren’t going to use the sauce right away, then pour the finished sauce into jars. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to a week, freeze it, or can it.
- If you do can them, add 2 tbs lemon juice or ½ tsp citric acid to boost the acidity.
Canned tomato sauce will keep for at least one year if it is stored in a cool, dry, dark environment.
No-sugar Added Homemade Ketchup
My daughter has epilepsy and cannot have store-bought ketchup. If I am transparent, it helps my son and I out because we are both on a Ketogenic diet. This recipe has become a family favorite.
- 3 medium tomatoes
- ¾ cup tomato paste
- 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 cup monk fruit
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic
- 1 pinch of allspice
*If you want to add a little kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper
- Clean and chop tomatoes. I cut them in half, remove the seeds, and cut off where the stem was attached to the tomato.
- Place the tomatoes in a saucepan or small Dutch oven and allow them to simmer for a few minutes. As they simmer, mash them. Add the salt, onion powder, monk fruit, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, and allspice, and let the mixture boil for approximately one minute.
- Remove the mixture from heat and either use a hand emulsifier or a blender to puree until the mixture is smooth. Add the mixture back to the saucepan and cook for a few minutes more.
- If you aren’t going to use the sauce right away, then pour the finished sauce into jars. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to a week, freeze it, or can it.
- If you do can them, add 2 tbs lemon juice or ½ tsp citric acid to boost the acidity. Canned tomato sauce will keep for at least one year if it is stored in a cool, dry, dark environment.
6. Create a Delectable Soup – There is nothing like fresh tomato soup. It’s definitely a family favorite at my house! My son had his wisdom teeth removed last week, and he could only have pureed soups.
He requested my Beer Cheese Soup and Creamy Basil Tomato Soup. No matter what season it is outside, Tomato Basil Soup is a favorite that gets you thumbs up from your pickiest eaters every time.
Creamy Basil Tomato Soup
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup olive or avocado oil
- 1.5 cups diced onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 10-12 whole crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ tsp Himalayan Sea salt (or to taste)
- ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)
- 1-quart chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbs sherry
- 1 tsp monk fruit
- In a large saucepan, sauté the onions and garlic in butter and olive oil over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant, and the onions are translucent.
- Add tomatoes, chopped basil, salt, and pepper.
- Pour in the chicken stock, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Using an emulsifier, blend until the soup is smooth and then return the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and mix in the heavy cream, sherry, and monk fruit.
*Some people put the soup through a strainer before serving.
If you have found yourself stuck on what you should do with your tomato harvest, I hope this helps you out of your bushel-filled bind.