If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have planted a garden, you may have begun to experience what-am-I-going-to-do-with-this-glut-of-tomatoes syndrome. Mild symptoms often begin in early August and quickly intensify to the critical stage. The following ideas will help alleviate and, in some instances, depending on the harvest and the number of plants you have, cure this summer condition.
14 Recipes to Deal with Tomato Overload
1. Roasted tomatoes
When people find out I don’t buy anything packaged, they inevitably ask “What do you do for tomatoes?” I used to buy cans and cans of tomatoes until we went plastic-free. I replaced those cans with these roasted tomatoes. They taste so much better. No comparison really.
Depending on the season, my favorite tomatoes—dry-farmed Early Girls from Tomatero Farm in Watsonville, California—will drop in price around the end of September or early October if I buy them by the 20-pound case. Last year I bought three cases of these, prepped them, roasted them and froze them. They got me through most of the winter. This year, I’ll go for four cases.
Here’s what I do basically: Halve or quarter tomatoes into bite-sizeish pieces (Early Girls are small), spread them out on a cookie sheet, top some trays with crushed garlic (so good), roast at 225F to 250F for an hour and a half or so, fill jars and freeze. I find wide-mouth glass jars work best. Here’s a detailed post on freezing food in glass.
2. Dehydrated tomatoes
I have access to a solar food dehydrator. I love it. It can reach temperatures up to 225°F. I slice tomatoes, spread them out in the dehydrator that sits in the sun, rotate the dehydrator occasionally for optimum rays and wait. The tomatoes taste like candy.
I realize most people don’t have a solar food dehydrator lying around. You can dehydrate tomatoes in the oven. It will take much longer. You can also use the interior of your car on a hot day!
3. Roasted salsa
This salsa doesn’t really require a recipe. But some readers may prefer a recipe more detailed than “Broil some vegetables, purée them and add acid and salt to taste.” But that’s really all there is to this. That and choosing the freshest produce possible. Go here for the recipe.
4. Fermented salsa
This is a very popular recipe and for good reason. It has a natural tang, a slight effervescence and tastes intensely fresh. Someone commented on the post for this recipe that when her husband tasted her salsa for the first time, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head.
To make this, you chop up salsa ingredients, stuff them into a jar and wait a couple of days. I get a lot of questions about the whey in this recipe. You can leave it out if you’re vegan or you just don’t want to mix whey with vegetables. It will still ferment; it may just take a little longer. You really can’t stop food from fermenting.
5. Fermented tomatoes
Like the salsa, these taste delicious and tangy. You cut up tomatoes into bite-size pieces, crush them up with your clean hands, stir in salt, cover, stir daily and wait several days for them to ferment. When they have fermented, you can make quick pasta sauce out of them. Just heat in a pot to reduce the liquid. Stir in minced basil near the end if desired. Don’t add additional salt. Heat will kill off the beneficial microbes but the sauce tastes delicious and requires much less energy and hands-on work than tomato sauce from scratch does (see #9 below).
6. Bloody Mary
Once you’ve fermented your tomatoes, you can use them to make a Bloody Mary without the Bloody Mary mix or the V-8 juice. Just puree the tomatoes, pour some in a glass and add vodka and the fixings.
You can also strain fermented tomatoes and use the liquid as a Bloody Mary base. Go here for instructions on straining fermented tomatoes.
If you’ve already roasted a bunch of tomatoes, you can make the next four recipes faster than you would starting with fresh tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes will also work though—and taste delicious.
7. Fermented cherry tomatoes
This is one of the easiest ferments. Mix salt and water for a brine, add clean cherry tomatoes and, if desired, fresh basil, close the jar and wait. You can reuse the brine for another batch.
One of the first things we gave up when we went plastic-free was store-bought ketchup. If you make kombucha and have let it brew to the point of vinegar, you can use that in place of the vinegars this recipe calls for. This ketchup recipe would also work with fermented tomatoes in place of the roasted ones. As with the roasted tomatoes, you would still want to run the fermented ones through a food mill or puree them. I prefer the food mill to the blades of a blender but not everyone has one. This freezes well.
9. Pizza sauce
You will not be able to eat store-bought pizza sauce after you’ve tasted this. It’s so easy to make too. Just sauté some minced garlic, add chopped tomatoes, salt and herbs and cook down for 10 to 20 minutes. This freezes well.
10. Tomato sauce
Before we went plastic-free, in addition to canned tomatoes, I bought lots of canned tomato sauce. Replacing it was one of our first plastic-free challenges. Like many of the other tomato recipes in this section, this works best if you run the tomatoes through a food mill. If you grow piles of tomatoes, you may want to invest in a food mill… This recipe also freezes well.
11. Vodka pasta sauce
The first time my daughter MK made this, I couldn’t believe my tastebuds. Vodka and heavy cream make this a rich, velvety sauce. So good. You could serve this to guests for a special occasion—it tastes that good. In a perfect world, I would always run the roasted tomatoes through a food mill before making this but I sometimes skip that step if I’m in a hurry. It still tastes good but if you have the time—and the food mill—I highly recommend using it. For many of these recipes you can blanch and peel tomatoes instead. I find that requires more work.
And of course, you can also make the following tomato-based dishes with your tomato bounty
12. Vegan chili
For years I tried to make meatless chili and I tried to like the results. Instead of hearty and filling, it had always turned out thin, soupy and unsatisfying. My daughter MK came up with a fantastic recipe that I tweaked ever so slightly. The umami comes from mushrooms and the sweet potatoes add starch. I also add some of the liquid from cooking beans to thicken this. I use a spice blend rather than chili powder (which is just a store-bought spice blend). Delicious. Even my carnivore will eat this.
13. Minestrone soup
It’s difficult to make minestrone without tomatoes. Use up some of your bounty with this delicious recipe. As an added bonus, you can add all sort of vegetables to minestrone and use up what needs to be used up. Like the previous recipe for chili and the following recipe for chana, you can make a vat of this, freeze some of it in glass jars and enjoy it later.
14. Chana masala (chickpeas in tomato-onion sauce)
I love Indian food and could eat it every day. I make this dish about once a week when I have tomatoes. Since writing the chana masala post, I’ve started to garnish it with chopped preserved lemons and, when I have them, chopped fermented jalapeños. Now I just need to make naan…
My younger daughter and I visited Washington D.C. last week and I spied this pressure cooker at the Smithsonian in a display on victory gardens in the food exhibit. I had to take a picture of that! Note the superheroes gardening in the comic book.
You have many other choices for all those tomatoes, including canning. I’ve listed here only recipes and methods that I’ve written full posts on.
Happy tomato season!