What to do with all those tomatoes
Summer in the south just wouldn’t be the same without juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes. They are quite possibly the most versatile fruit from the garden. (Yes, they are a fruit, not a vegetable). Growing your own tomatoes is a great way to stretch your food budget both summer and winter. Enjoy them fresh all summer all the way until fall’s first frost.
Savor the flavor of a BLT sandwich made with fresh sliced tomatoes and a tall glass of sweet iced tea.
Dice them along with other veggies for a delightful garden salad,or cold pasta salad.
Slice green ones for a platter of fried green tomatoes, a southern delicacy that inspired a Hollywood hit movie.
Can stewed tomatoes in jars for delicious soups and sauces next winter.
Learn to make sun dried tomatoes that will add a gourmet touch to recipes.
Canned or frozen tomatoes can be used in many dishes all winter. An added bonus is the nutritional value in tomatoes. They are a truly nutritious food. Loaded with vitamin C, and the antioxidants lycopene and zeaxanthin, tomatoes help fight skin cancer and eye disease.
Growing tomatoes can be challenging at times, but fairly easy if you follow a few tricks and tips. Try using the tips on growing tomatoes at the end of this article for growing your next crop. Chances are, you too will be wondering what to do with all those tomatoes!
What to do with sliced tomatoes
One of my favorite ways of using sliced tomatoes is making fried green tomatoes, a dish that has risen from country simplicity to gourmet goodness. Use tomatoes that are green in color upon ripeness, or true green, unripe ones. Slice them about a quarter of an inch thick. Spread the slices out on paper towels and salt them down with kosher salt. Let them sit for about half an hour. This helps remove the water from the tomato slices.
Meanwhile, beat a couple of eggs with a dollop of milk, in a bowl with a fork. Set up a breading station near the stove with a bowl of flour and cornmeal in separate bowls. Add some cayenne pepper to the cornmeal. Heat an eighth of an inch of oil with a pat of butter on medium heat. Right when the butter begins to sizzle, dip each tomato slice in flour first, then the egg mixture, and finally the cornmeal. Use a fork to do this. Fry the slices until golden brown, turning once. Serve these tangy tomato slices with a sauce made of mayonnaise, pickle relish, and hot sauce. This is a delicious appetizer!
What to do with diced tomatoes
Create a classic tossed side salad for a main meal with diced tomatoes, lettuce, and other Summer garden veggies. Make a huge one when grilling out. It’s the only side dish you will need! Learn to grow a few varieties of lettuces, or pick heads of lettuce up cheaply at a produce stand.
Diced tomatoes can be used in cold pasta salads and quick, hot stir-fries. Toss tuna or chicken with pasta, diced tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers, peppers, and whatever other fresh goodies you might have with salad dressing, and make a unique pasta salad for dinner. A little olive oil, a saute pan or wok, chicken or beef strips, diced tomatoes and other Summer veggies is an inexpensive stir-fry for another night!
Make bruschetta, another great appetizer or party food with finely diced tomatoes, garlic, onions and fresh chopped basil. I use Roma and Golden Boy tomatoes for greater color. If you have leftover hot dog or hamburger buns, use those to save money. Slice the buns at a slant for visual interest. Otherwise used sliced Italian bread. Top the slices with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and a mixture of the tomatoes and herbs. I like sprinkling the tops with more Parmesan cheese and toasting in a low broiler for 15-20 minutes. This gives the ingredients a chance to weld together. Watch out that it doesn’t burn!. This is an easy and inexpensive appetizer.
Preserving tomatoes for winter cooking
Tomatoes can be preserved for Wwnter cooking, saving dollars off of your grocery bill. There are methods for freezing, canning and drying tomatoes.
Freezing is the messiest, but fairly easy, and well worth being able to avoid paying high prices for less flavorful hothouse tomatoes all winter. The freezing of tomatoes involves blanching them to easily remove the skins and cores. Tomatoes are dropped into hot, boiling water for just seconds. Take care not to begin a cooking process. That is the tricky part. The hot tomatoes are dropped immediately into cold water, causing the skins to split open for easy removal. The core is removed with a knife, and the tomato flesh is then vacuum sealed in Ziplock bags.
Unless you have a lot of freezer space, such as a stand-alone chest-type freezer, canning or drying tomatoes may be the best option. See this article describing canning stewed tomatoes How To Can Stewed Tomatoes-Recipe. Again, the tomatoes are blanched and the peeled, cored tomatoes are processed in jars sterilized in the dishwasher.
Tomatoes can be dried in the sun or in a food dehydrator. Sun dried tomatoes are popular in gourmet dishes. They can also be reconstituted for use in sauces by covering them with boiling water and letting them sit for 30 minutes. The water can also be used in the sauces.
Dry tomatoes in the sun by covering with metal screens or cheese cloth. Bring them in at night, and with a few days in the sun, you can have real sun dried tomatoes. Store them for reconstitution or for use in recipes. A food dehydrator is a better way to go if you have one. It is less trouble and faster. Slice tomatoes about one-quarter inch thick. Sprinkle each layer for the food dehydrator with kosher salt. Leave the dehydrator plugged in for about 10 hours.
Recipes using sun dried tomatoes
Add a gourmet touch to cooking with sun dried tomatoes or tomatoes dried in a food hydra-tor. Pricey at the supermarket, dried homegrown tomatoes can save money. Make a Greek pizza by topping pizza crust with tomato sauce, feta cheese, dried tomatoes and black olives. Or try the angel hair pasta with sun-dried tomatoes recipe.
- 8 ounces dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked
- 1teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon parsley, fresh (chopped) or dried
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the chopped dried tomatoes, parsley and garlic. Saute quickly.
- Top hot pasta with the dried tomato, herb and olive oil mixture and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese generously.
Tips for growing tomatoes
- start seeds indoors for early tomatoes
- plant seeds or seedlings after a frost-free date
- get seedlings from a local nursery to get the best for your area
- get varieties that mature at different times, early Summer to late Fall.
- mulch and fertilize with 10-10-10 fertilizer after planting
- use soil that has been “worked”
- plant where the tomatoes can get at least 6 hours of sun
- make sure the tomatoes stay watered
- fertilizer every 3-4 weeks with household plant food
- provide a stake or cage for support