August Is the Reddest Month

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.

12 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.

And here’s the detailed post on the roasted tomatoes.

how to roast tomatoes
Prepped tomatoes ready for the oven
roasted tomatoes
Roasted tomatoes, packed in glass jars and ready to freeze

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 also dehydrate tomatoes in the oven. It will take much longer. You can even use your car windshield like a couple of bloggers I know do. A reader sent this link with more info on using your car to dehydrate food (thanks Nikki!).

Here is the post on solar dehydrated tomatoes.

solar dehydrated tomatoes
Solar dehydrated tomatoes, view from the outside
literal sundried tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes ready to eat

3. 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.

Here is the recipe for the salsa.

Salsa ready to pack in jars

4. 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 #8 below).

Here is the recipe for fermented tomatoes.

Crush tomatoes with your hands
Fermenting tomatoes in need of a stir
Bubbly and tangy fermented tomatoes ready to eat or store for the long haul

5. 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.

Here’s the post on fermented Bloody Marys.

Cheers

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.

6. Ketchup

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.

Here is the ketchup recipe.

Homemade ketchup

7. 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 spices and cook down for about 10 minutes. This freezes well.

Here is the pizza sauce recipe.

homemade pizza sauce
Pizza sauce

8. 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.

Here is the tomato sauce recipe.

9. 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’d recommend using it. For many of these recipes you can blanch and peel tomatoes instead. I find that takes a lot of work.

Here is the vodka sauce recipe.

running tomatoes through food mill
Food mill in action
vodka sauce
Vodka sauce ready for pasta

Bonus recipes!

And of course, you can also make the following tomato-based dishes with your tomato bounty.

10. 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.

Here is the chili recipe.

11. 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.

Here is the minestrone recipe.

minestrone soup
Giant pot of minestrone soup

12. 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. If you read my blog at all, you may notice that I mention this recipe—and my beloved pressure cooker for cooking the beans it calls for—at least once a month. Since I wrote the original post for this, 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…

Chana masala in progress
In a perfect world, I’d have run these tomatoes through a food mill first
Chana masala ready to eat
pressure cooker
Pressure cooker on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

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!

tomatoes on the vine
Tomatoes on the vine, growing in our community garden

2 Comment

  1. We’ve gotten into a good routine canning the tomatoes as generic crushed tomatoes – nothing fancy. Because we are doing them plain, we can get through a large number of tomatoes in a short time period. Then we use them to make a variety of recipes including pasta sauces. They are fairly wet when we can them but you can drain the jar for thicker tomatoes for recipes. Then we drink the juice – no waste.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Sara, thanks for the info. Do you blanch and peel them first? I like the idea of plain and quick. ~ Anne Marie

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