A bountiful harvest is a good thing… right up until you have too much of a good thing going on. Strong tomato plants will deliver just that – all the juicy, succulent tomatoes you can handle, plus all you can give away, plus more tomatoes than you know what to do with at once. The usual tricks – making BLT sandwiches, mixing up some salsa, tossing together a caprese salad – get old fast and really only use a few tomatoes at a time.
You need to deal with more than a handful of extra tomatoes – you’ve got a harvest to manage! Here are five things to do with extra tomatoes to help stretch out the bounty of your garden while simultaneously ensuring that none of it goes to waste.
Make Tomato Juice
Juicing has numerous health benefits, but it’s also useful to gardeners with too many tomatoes on their hands. You can make healthy tomato juice at home, save a fortune on the store-bought brands, and keep the juice frozen for months so that you’ll always have sip of summer to share.
If you don’t have a juicer, you can cook up your own juice. Pull out a large non-reactive saucepan and toss in washed and quartered tomatoes. Simmer them for about ten minutes, until they are soft and falling apart. Take them off the heat and using a sieve, strain the mix so that the solids are left behind. Toss the solids (or use in another recipe), flavor the juice to taste, and then drink it fresh or freeze it for later.
Create Tomato Soup for Summer or Winter
Tomato soup recipes call for an average of two pounds of tomatoes, which will make a dent in your supply. As a bonus, you have the choice of making tomato soup for summer heat or the cool of winter.
If you want to manage summer heat, turn to Spanish gazpacho recipes. This tangy tomato soup is served cold and it goes well with a fresh garden salad. Made with tomato, peppers, cucumber, and fresh spices, gazpacho recipes can use up multiple garden blessings while offering a unique twist on tomato soups.
For winter soups, basic tomato, tomato basil, roasted tomato, and tomato red pepper soup are all standard options. For something different, try Indian sorba soup with ginger. All can be easily canned, providing you with a taste of your summer garden long after the snow has fallen.
Channel Your Inner Italian
Pasta sauces and pizza sauces are great ways to stretch out the life of your harvest and create easy meals for months to come. Think of this as the ultimate shortcut – when the kids ask what’s for dinner, you’ll know you have a ready-made, healthy option on hand.
Basic pasta sauce recipes will freeze nicely for up to six months, though you also have the option to can sauces for a longer shelf life. Depending on your herb garden supplies, you may be able to make the whole thing right out of the backyard. Essentially, an hour with a few pounds of tomatoes, some garlic, and a handful of basil gives you a base for meals for months.
Pizza sauces are equally simple. You can spice it up or leave it plain depending on your family’s love for garlic and red pepper flakes. But start to finish, it’s about an hour to a good sauce you can keep on hand in the freezer for months.
Dry It Out
For garnishes or snacks, you can dry tomatoes. It’s optional to flavor them as they dry, though many people do like to spice them with garlic salt, sea salts, and pepper. Thicker slices will stay a bit leathery and chewy, but thinly sliced tomatoes will turn crunchy like potato chips, providing a healthy alternative for kids’ snacks, your snacks, or to add to salads for texture.
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It’s simply to dry tomatoes in the oven, or you have the option to use a solar food dehydrator to get the job done. Plan for an overnight if you’re doing it in the oven, or up to two or three days in a solar dehydrator depending on your daily temperatures and sun exposures.
Drink It Up Now – Or Later
Last but not least, remember that you can always drink your garden with a generous splash of vodka. Though most people buy it in the store, Bloody Mary mix can be made from scratch, allowing you to use up tomatoes, garlic, and horseradish from your own garden. Whether you opt to drink it as a zesty juice or add the alcohol, homemade mixes beat the store blends hands-down.
Homemade Bloody Mary mix can be canned, just like a pasta sauce or soup. Thus, you can toast yourself with the fruits of your labors at the end of summer and all winter long! Don’t forget that you can also just can the tomatoes whole and then pop open a jar or two whenever you want to make one of these delicious recipes!
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