Tomatoes

Growing & Preserving Tomatoes

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Tomatoes are one of our family’s favorite things to grow and the one fruit we use the most often. Yes, tomatoes are a fruit. If a plant flowers, it’s a fruit, meaning that most of the vegetables that we eat are actually fruits. Things like beans, squash, tomatoes, and peppers are all fruits!

For as long as we’ve had a garden we’ve planted tomatoes!

In my opinion, they’re one of the easiest things to plant & fun too! We usually plant Romas or another similar variety because they have more meat and less water making them better for canning. We’ll be sure to include a sandwich tomato like Better Boy for BLTs or simply slicing and eating. And of course, some cherry tomatoes for salads, and a couple of yellow tomatoes or small pear tomatoes because they’re less acidic and we need yellow tomatoes to make Pico de Gio. Though we forgot this year we try to always feed them breakfast when we plant them. Adding a scoop of used coffee grounds, dried egg shells, and a banana peel to each hole.

Tomatoes

Once the tomatoes begin to turn, it won’t be long until we’re practically drowning. So, we start using them…Adding some fresh chopped tomatoes to omelets, making a quick pasta sauce, egg sandwiches, or making a breakfast pizza.

Early September Harvest tomatoes & squash
2021 Garden Harvest

When it comes time to start preserving them…we have a couple of different options. Usually, we’ll make a batch or two of homemade salsa. One year we even made and canned salsa outside using the grill and a camping stove! After seeing what’s left we’ll make some tomato powder. Using our food mill we’ll collect all the juice and freeze dry it to make a powder that we’ll use in soups. We’ve also tried our hand at tomato juice as well.

Making Salsa Outside

Last year, we took the rest and made stewed tomatoes. Blanching and peeling them, then crushing them in a warm jar and adding water to fill the rest of the jar before it goes into a water bath. While I enjoyed preserving them this way because it was so easy, it wasn’t practical. In our soups, there were large chunks of stringy tomato instead of the nice bite-sized chunks we prefer.

This year our garden has taken a bit of a hit and the tomatoes are taking forever to turn. In addition, we’re preparing for the bakery’s busiest season. Next month we have something every weekend and a combined 5 markets–including a HUGE two-day festival at the end of the month.

So, we’re doing something a little different with the tomato harvest. We’ve been enjoying some of them diced as a side dish with quiche or taco night. Once we start to get several in we’re going to freeze them in gallon-sized zip bags and process them over the Winter when life settles down a little.

This is a first for us. Usually, we’ll block off a weekend and preserve what needs preserving. Freezing corn, beans, and squash. Then we’ll can tomatoes, pickles, and relish. But this year it’s different and it feels very weird. almost like we’re forgetting something. But maybe, that’s a good thing. With so many other irons in the fire, we’re able to keep up with the harvest because it’s trickling in instead of us getting slammed.

Despite the garden’s trouble with pests, wacky weather, and a late planting it’s done really well. And for that I’m thankful! We are just starting to get enough tomatoes to freeze a bag full so I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on the process as it develops!

Until next time,
Bailey Sue