Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

What to do with extra tomatoes from the garden?

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When you’ve had a good tomato harvest, especially during tomato season, you might find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, and even green tomatoes. Sometimes you end up with way more tomatoes than you know what to do with.

With tomatoes it’s a much easier problem to solve than you might think, so if you’re wondering what to do with extra tomatoes from your garden then we’ve got you covered!

Today we’ll talk about 10 ways that you can make good use of your tomatoes throughout the year, such as freezer salsa or sauce, probiotic-packed fermented tomatoes, tomato skin scare recipes, and more. When it comes to tomatoes, you’ve REALLY got options, so read on and we’ll tell you all about them!

A word to the wise – Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Before we get started, one excellent resource that you’ll want to bookmark is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Whether you’re canning, freezing, fermenting, drying, or preserving your food in any other old way, they’ve got tips on making sure that you can do it right and avoid any potential health pitfalls! It’s good stuff and chock full of recipes, so be sure to give it a peek when you get the chance.

The reason we are including this is that there are a lot of ways to preserve tomatoes and a million recipes on the internet, but you have to be very careful as the wrong acidity is a quick recipe for surprise botulism or other scary health risks and you definitely DON’T want that.

By visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation, you can find a ton of recipes with additives that you can adapt to your own to keep your food preservation both yummy and healthful.

With that said, let’s take a look at what you can do to make the most of those tomatoes in your garden!

Freeze some fresh tomato sauce for recipes on the fly!

If you’re looking for different ways to use your summer tomatoes, consider making and freezing tomato sauce. Fresh tomato sauce really makes a difference in your recipes and it’s quite versatile – you can turn it into pasta sauces, use it for chilis, whip up amazing soups, and more! Not only that, but with this recipe from Kalyn Denny at Kalyn’s Kitchen you can freeze your sauce and it should last at LEAST a year.

Let’s take a look and see what you think – it’s a great way to use those extra tomatoes and you might just find that you LOVE having fresh sauce handy whenever you like!

Freezer tomato sauce

Ingredients:

  • 6 large, well-ripened tomatoes per 1 cup of sauce

Special requirements:

  • Stock pot
  • Food processor (steel-bladed)

Directions:

  1. Rinse your tomatoes thoroughly in the sink with some cold water, and we need to start cutting the stem area from each tomato and discarding these pieces.
  2. Cut your tomatoes up into pieces approximately 1 inch square – no bigger, as this will make it harder to puree them properly.
  3. Divide up your tomato chunks into easy-to-process batches and start adding them to your food processor to puree. It should have a fairly liquid consistency when it’s ready to add into the stock pot. Repeat the process until all of your chunks are pureed.
  4. Cook your tomatoes at the lowest heat on your stove that will actually cook it and leave them uncovered – this is a slow cook and evaporation is what we want so that we’re left with thick, yummy sauce.
  5. Cook for approximately 6 hours – you can do it a little longer or cook it a little less if you want a thicker or thinner consistency, but thicker sauce will freeze better so keep this in mind. Every half hour, you can also take a rubber spatula to the sides to scrape off any caramelized tomato as it cooks.
  6. When your cook is finished, you can pour your tomato sauce into sterile plastic containers but let them sit for about an hour to cool before you pop the lid on and put them into your freezer. Your sauce may be frozen for at least a year and it will still taste great, but if you have a black marker it doesn’t hurt to mark the date on top of it — just in case you forget when you put a batch into the freezer!

This easy recipe transforms your whole tomatoes and roma tomatoes into a rich sauce, perfect for various pasta dishes.

Thick salsa also freezes quite well

Turning your fresh salsa, made with juicy garden tomatoes and green tomatoes, into a freezer-friendly version is a fun way to preserve your harvest. For some of us, salsa is an everyday thing, and it’s no fun running out of it. So, why not make your own and freeze it? While this recipe is not suitable for canning due to its low acidity, it’s perfect for freezing up to 6 months so that you can have some ‘backup’ salsa ready and waiting when you need it.

This Tomato Freezer Salsa comes to us from Getty Stewart at GettyStewart.com and if you give it a try, be sure to take a peek at the comments for a few tips and tweaks! With that said, here’s that recipe.

Tomato Freezer Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 10 – 15 large ripe tomatoes 10 cups (chopped)
  • ¼ cup lime juice (or apple cider vinegar)
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 large onions (chopped)
  • 2 green peppers (chopped)
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 8 jalapeno peppers finely chopped (or other hot peppers)

Directions:

  1. For best flavor, core and seed your tomatoes but you don’t have to peel them if you don’t want to – that’s entirely up to you! Chop them up coarsely and you should end up with about 10 cups worth of tomatoes to work with.
  2. Mix your tomatoes up in a large pot with all of our remaining ingredients and be thorough about it, and then turn on the heat to bring this mixture to a boil. Be sure to stir often for now, but when it starts boiling you can turn the heat down to a nice simmer.
  3. Cook your salsa for a minimum of 45 minutes. You can cook it a little longer if you like your salsa thicker and as with your tomato sauce, ‘thicker freezes better’.
  4. Let the salsa cool completely and while it’s doing so, mark the date in black marker on some plastic freezer bag and then transfer your sauce into them, leaving half an inch of space in the bags before you seal each one. Now, just pop them in the freezer and they’ll be delicious and ready for your convenience for up to 6 months!

Make your own tomato juice

When you have lots of tomatoes, making homemade tomato juice is another tasty way to use tomatoes from your garden. If you love tomato juice, then why settle for ‘second best’ when you can make your own? Those extra tomatoes in your garden can be put to good use with this recipe from Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes. What you’ll get if you follow these steps carefully is a tomato juice that puts V8 to shame, but don’t take our word for it – do yourself a favor and give it a try!

Homemade Tomato Juice

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of ripe garden tomatoes (cored and coarsely chopped)
  • 1/3 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • 1 or 2 shakes of Tabasco sauce (6 to 8 drops is yummy)
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped celery (with the leaves)
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Special requirements:

  • Sieve, food mill, or a chinoise
  • Stainless-steel pot (so it’s not reactive)

Directions:

  1. Place all of your ingredients into your large, stainless steel pot and carefully bring them to a boil uncovered, stirring as you go. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook it for approximately 25 minutes until it’s the same consistency as soup.
  2. Strain your mixture through your food mill, chinoise, or sieve so that you’re only getting the yummy juice and once you’ve strained all of it, your juice will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in your freezer in plastic quart bags for up to a YEAR!

Homemade ketchup anyone?

Probably the nicest thing about homemade ketchup is that you can play with the recipe and tweak it to custom perfection. If you’ve never made your own ketchup before, then this recipe from Samira at Alphafoodie is a great way to give it a try. This homemade ketchup recipe is a good way to use up plum tomatoes and adds a sweet flavor to your meals. It takes just an hour and 5 minutes to make a cup and a half and if you like it, you can certainly adjust the recipe accordingly.

Did we mention it’ll last 1 month in your refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer? Let’s take a look and you can see how to make it!

Simple homemade ketchup

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups tomatoes
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder or cayenne powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 whole clove bud
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Special requirements:

  • An immersion blender or food processor
  • Fine sieve

Directions:

  1. Wash your tomatoes well and remove the stems, adding them into a large bowl as you go. Once they’re ready, blend them with your immersion blender or by dividing them up and putting them into manageable batches in your food processor.
  2. Run your blended tomatoes through a fine sieve so that we can get out the seeds and skin chunks and keep them from going into your ketchup. You’ll have approximately 3.5 cups of tomato juice at this point.
  3. Add your tomatoes to a large saucepan and put them on a medium heat, stirring them occasionally as you bring them to a slow boil.
  4. Once we’ve got a boil, start stirring in our remaining ingredients and keep the heat at medium for another 8 to 10 minutes (or a little longer if you want thicker ketchup).
  5. Let your ketchup cool down and transfer it to airtight plastic containers or a sterile bottle that you’ve got ready for the occasion. Enjoy your ketchup and if you like it, be sure to make some extra to freeze!

Vacuum seal and freeze your tomatoes

Preserving your cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes by vacuum sealing is an easy way to extend their shelf life for later use. If you have a vacuum sealer, like this handy and high-rated Foodsaver vacuum sealer machine then it’s time to blow the dust off of it and put it to good use! Vacuum sealed tomatoes will last for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator and for a few MONTHS in your freezer, and still taste fresh when you open them up for a snack.

To give you an idea of how easy this is to do, here’s a quick overview of the process:

  1. Wash your tomatoes thoroughly in cold water, so that we can get rid of any dirt or unwanted debris, and dry them off with a cloth or paper towel so that they’re ready to process.
  2. Give your vacuum sealer a quick check to make sure that there aren’t any errant food bits or dust inside and that it’s in good, working order. If it’s been awhile since you’ve used it, a quick scrub with a little vinegar, water, and a toothbrush can get it clean and ready for use – just give it a little time to dry first.
  3. Add your tomatoes into the sealing chamber according to your model’s instructions – some seal automatically, while others require specialized bags so check your manual if you haven’t used your sealer yet.
  4. Now you’ll just need to wait for the process to complete, so grab a cup of coffee or play on the internet for a bit, and when it’s done the tomatoes should feel a little bit more dense inside and they’ll look exactly the same. This is normal.
  5. Store them away in your refrigerator or freezer and don’t forget to mark the date with a permanent marker as a reminder so that you can eat them while they’ll still taste fresh!

Old School Probiotics – Fermented tomatoes

Fermented tomatoes are tangy and delicious, but they’re also chock full of probiotics that are good for gut health. If you’ve never had them, they’re quite easy to make and this recipe from Nico at Documented Simple Living provides all of the steps you’ll need to make them on your own.

They’re a real treat, so if you like them then be sure to store some away for snacking. They’re excellent for your health and the taste is out of this world!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp Unadulterated Salt (Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan, for instance)
  • Enough tomatoes to fill a quart jar
  • 2 Cups water (Filtered or Distilled)

Special requirements:

  • One or more 1-gallon glass mason jars
  • A fermenting weight (just something heavy to keep the tomatoes submerged)

Directions:

  1. Pour your 2 cups of water, along with 4 tbsp of salt into a sauce pan and heat it, stirring occasionally, until the salt is fully dissolved in the water. Put this to the side to cool.
  2. Clean your tomatoes thoroughly and once they’re ready, put as many into each glass jar you will be filling. Fill them up to the point where they are tightly packed, but not so tight that it damages your tomatoes.
  3. Check your salt water… Once it has cooled down, you can pour it onto your tomatoes in the jar and set the fermenting weight on top to keep them submerged in our salty water.
  4. Put the jar on top of a towel in a dark, cool area where it will not be disturbed. P a lid LOOSELY on top. Since we are fermenting here, gas will be produced, so you don’t want to screw the lid on tightly or the glass could eventually explode.
  5. Leave your tomatoes to ferment. For a 1-gallon jar, this can take 3 to 4 weeks, while very small jars could take as little as 6 to 8 days. You’ll know it’s working when the water starts to ‘fog up’ a bit and little bubbles of escaping gas may be seen in the jar.
  6. After 3-4 weeks, you can take off the fermentation weight and screw the lid on tightly. You can leave them in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to eat them and they’ll last in the fridge for up to 12 months!

Skin care – with your garden tomatoes!

Tomatoes, as it turns out, are very good for your skin. Creating a tomato mixture with your raw tomatoes and tomato skins can be your absolute favorite way to utilize fresh veggies for natural skin care.

Aside from their acidity, which can help in removing old skin and even fading blemishes, they’ve got a number of vitamins that come into play. Vitamin A, for instance, helps in smoothing out skin and in fading blemishes, while vitamins B and C help your skin to fight free radicals and boost collagen production for proper elasticity.

We’ve got two recipes to share with you that you can try out at home – a tomato and lemon mask and a tomato and milk skin cleanse.

We’ll start with tomato and lemon mask, the instructions for which come to us from Bellatory, and they have 2 more mask recipes on the link that you can also check out. After that, we’ll tell you about the tomato and milk cleanse and you can see what you think!

Tomato and Lemon mask

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 ripe tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Special requirements:

  • Food processor

Directions:

  1. Place your tomato half into the food processor and blend it into a smooth puree consistency.
  2. Mix your ½ tsp of lemon juice into the tomato puree and once it’s mixed well, simply apply it to your face with clean cotton balls and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse with cold water and gently pat your skin dry, and moisturize afterwards with a drop of olive oil and you’re done!

Tomato and milk skin cleanse

This tomato and milk cleanse comes from Pierre Jean Cousin, a dermatologist, herbal therapy specialist, and an author from New Vision and it’s a simple, but effective way to keep your skin clean and fresh. Let’s take a look!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium tomato
  • Whole Milk (see steps for amount)

Special requirements:

  • Food processor or a blender
  • Fine sieve

Directions:

  1. Clean your tomato, removing the stem and leaves if there are any, and then we want to put it in your blender or food processor so that we can blend it to a juice consistency or puree.
  2. Run our blended tomato through your fine sieve, so that we’re just left with the fresh juice.
  3. Mix an equal part of milk for the volume of tomato juice that you have.
  4. You can apply this with cotton pads, but be sure to test your skin with just a small dab on a cotton ball first on the wrist to ensure that you don’t have any allergic reactions to it.
  5. Once you’ve confirmed that your skin isn’t sensitive to the tomato milk cleanse, you can apply this once or twice a day with cotton pads and leave it on for about 10 minutes. After that, just rinse with some bottled spring water and pat dry your skin and you’re done!

Homemade oven-dried tomatoes are AMAZING

Transform your homegrown tomatoes into sun-dried tomatoes in your oven, a great alternative to buying them at the grocery store. Sun dried tomatoes are yummy and if you don’t like putting food outside to dry, you can easily make these in your oven or dehydrator! To give you an idea of what’s involved, we’ve got this recipe from Kimberly at the Daring Gourmet which takes 10 minutes prep time and about 7 hours of cooking time.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes (quartered if large or cut in half if medium-sized)
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees or a little higher if your oven won’t go to that low of a setting. If you are using a dehydrator for this, then set it anywhere between 140 and 160 to dry the tomatoes.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment and line up your tomatoes on top, with their cut sides up. Sprinkle them with your salt and if you have any spices you’d like to add from your personal spice-stash, go ahead and add them now or we can just go with the sea salt.
  3. Let them cook for 3.5 hours before flipping them over to cook the other side. You’ll give the tomatoes another 3.5 hours, but check occasionally and you can flatten the larger tomatoes a bit with your spatula. They will dry at different rates, so if some of the smaller ones are done sooner, you can go ahead and remove them and leave the others to slowly cook.
  4. The consistency we’re looking for is dry, but flexible. Rather like a dried apricot – it should be dry, but soft and yummy. If they come out a little leathery, then that means they have cooked too long, so for your first batch you’ll want to watch them carefully and note the time involved.

You can store your finished tomatoes in an airtight plastic container and eat them as-is or reconstitute them with about 30 seconds in warm water. In their dried state, they’ll last for a few months in your refrigerator and likely a year or even more in your freezer. We doubt they’ll last that long, however, once you’ve given them a try!

Selling your extra tomatoes for a tidy profit

You can sell your extra tomatoes and it’s not just a matter of setting up a stand on the side of the road. Anna Chesley from Salt in my Coffee has an excellent article on the subject here and gives advice on tactics such as selling your extra tomatoes directly to vendors at farmer’s market to supplement their stocks, or raising Heirloom tomatoes so that you can sell the seeds.

Some grocery stores will even buy them if you are producing a lot of tomatoes and they deal with local vendors. So, don’t think that you are limited to just setting up a stand that you might not have time for. It’s all a matter of thinking outside of the box and you’ll be amazed at some of the possibilities that may arise when you do!

Food banks and pantries often appreciate fresh produce

You’ll need to check with them in advance, but many food banks and local pantries will accept fresh produce. That’s right – your garden and hard work can help to ensure that folks in need have access to fresh, healthy fruits and veggies.

There’s a great article on the subject by Michigan State University that goes into some of the finer points of it if you would like to pursue this option and there’s a lot of useful info.

For instance, if you’re worried about potential liability from your donation, since you’re donating fresh food and food is always at a risk of becoming contaminated, a federal law passed in 1996 called the ‘Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act’ was signed into law in 1996 and specifically protects good-intentioned gardeners.

It’s well worth a read and also one of the best ways EVER to deal with extra tomatoes – sharing is caring, after all — and the best fruits and veggies come from gardens that have had a lot of hard work and love put into them.

FAQs

Before we wrap up this article, we wanted to include a few frequently asked questions about dealing with your spare tomatoes after a generous harvest. We hope that you find something useful here and don’t forget to check the video at the end – it’s quite a unique trick and we think you’re going to like it!

What else can I do with too many fresh tomatoes?

You can do all kinds of things with those extra tomatoes. Consider making a caprese salad, tomato jam, or even pairing tomato slices with feta cheese for a garden salad. If you like bruschetta, for instance, then you can treat yourself and the family to as much as you’d like. Start with recipes that need a lot of tomatoes as the best way to go. Tomato carpaccio, Panzanella, and even Wine-gummy tomatoes are just a few examples of what you can do.

If you get bored of cooking, then you can always freeze, dry, or can the rest, but tomatoes are a tasty way to exercise your creativity and there’s always one more dish that you still haven’t tried!

Can you freeze fresh tomatoes?

Yes, tomatoes may be frozen either cooked, raw, chopped up, whole – you name it. Your mileage will vary a little though with how they will taste as time passes. For best results, vacuum sealing before freezing is a good idea, or you could just preserve them in other ways.

Is freezing tomatoes better than canning?

Canners will argue that you get a lot more flavor out of canned tomatoes and we’re going to concede on that point. While you CAN freeze tomatoes and have them come out tasting fresh, folks have been preserving veggies by canning for a long time and it’s quite the fantastic art.

That doesn’t mean frozen tomatoes will taste awful – if you do it right, they’re quite yummy, we’re just saying that we’re not going to argue with the canners on this. Harvest time is coming up, after all, and happy canners like to share what they can!

Some final words on what to do with extra tomatoes from the garden

That concludes our article for today. Remember, whether you’re making tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, or a simple tomato soup recipe, using fresh herbs like fresh thyme or garlic cloves enhances the flavors of your dishes.

We hope that you’ve found a few new ways to use those extra tomatoes that are to your liking. Freeze them, ferment them, cook them up, or put them on your skin – tomatoes are pretty darned versatile and delicious to boot.

Just remember to pay a visit to the National Center for Home Food Preservation to check out some of their tips and recipes to help ensure that your preservation schemes are all healthy ones and then the ways that you can save those tomatoes are almost endless.

Thanks so much for reading today and if you have a moment then please do leave a comment for the rest of us to share some of your own favorite ways to deal with extra, delicious tomatoes. We gardeners have to stick together, after all!

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: David McLemore

David learned to cook at an early age after his mother told him that he couldn't live on pizza forever, Dave uses his modest kitchen skills to recreate sorely-missed recipes from home and to occasionally make new favorite ones from places he is visiting.

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