Ideas for Using Up All Those Tomatoes
August and September have always been the biggest tomato producing months for us. All summer I tend to my tomato plants salivating over the thought of that first truly vine ripened tomato that I grew in my own garden. And no I don't share it with my family, it is mine, all mine. Come August and September though, I am feeding my family tomatoes every chance I get and I still search for ways to use them. They just don't last very long sitting on my counter!
Tomatoes are very, very good for you, which is a good thing because I eat plenty of them. A fruit technically speaking, tomatoes are even better for you when they are cooked. In the summer though, it is all about eating them fresh. I frequently just put a bowl of cherry tomatoes on the table and let the kids have at it. We eat them sliced a lot too. Late summer is the time for BLTs and grilled burgers with stacks of sliced tomatoes.
As for cooking with tomatoes, I like to have pasta with fresh tomatoes. While the pasta is boiling, heat a large saute pan with a tablespoon of oil added. Slice grape or cherry tomatoes in half. Once the oil is heated mince some garlic into the pan and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. When you start to smell the garlic cooking add the tomatoes and stir around for a minute. Then add a ladle or two of the pasta water and let simmer until the pasta is done. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture. Top with fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. This is delicious served with homemade focaccia bread.
If you have enough tomatoes to can this is a great way to preserve tomatoes in the summer to be used in the winter. I rarely get enough tomatoes at one time to make canning worthwhile for me, but I do freeze tomatoes for use in the winter. I just peel and dice tomatoes as I have extra and add them to quart bags that I keep in my freezer. I can fill them up as I get tomatoes and they hold their nutrition well, because they were frozen within minutes of picking. I do have to remember to thaw these though, as opposed to canning which I can just grab and open. The taste of home preserved tomatoes is so much better than store bought cans of diced tomatoes.
If you have a huge surplus of cherry or grape tomatoes, you can try your hand at drying them and making your own sun-dried tomatoes. I did this a couple of weeks ago and while it took a long time in my oven, the taste of these sun-dried tomatoes is amazing. I just sliced the cherry tomatoes in half and spread them around on foil covered baking sheets. They should dry in your oven on a very low setting like 140-150 degrees. It did take mine 5 days to dry completely though, so make sure you have an oven full if you are going to take the time and energy to do it. A food dehydrator would be much better for this, but I don't have one and this was my first attempt at drying anything.
As a side dish that is much more elegant than just a plate of sliced tomatoes, I make an Italian tomato dish. I slice tomatoes and spread them around on a plate. I top them with fresh basil and sliced mozzarella. I then crack fresh pepper over the top. In a small bowl I mix together balsamic vinegar and olive oil and pour over the top. This is best if it has sat for 30 minutes before dinner to absorb the flavors. This is a simple and delicious dish that is perfect for company.
So if you aren't sick of tomatoes yet, try some of these ideas and enjoy your bountiful tomato harvest before the first frost. You can't get a fresh from the garden tomato again until next summer, so enjoy them while they last!
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