I’m expecting another bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and I know exactly what I’m going to do with my harvest. How about you? Do you know what to do with all of those excess tomatoes? If not, here are some ideas for what you can do when you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes.
By the way, I have not included canning as an option here because I think there are less time-intensive ways to preserve tomatoes.
Make a giant batch of tomato sauce and freeze it in portions (you can obviously can it if you want, but freezer bags, doubled up, work just fine). While you’re at it, you can even divide the sauce and turn some right into pizza sauce (I like to add a bit of balsamic vinegar and tomato paste to my pizza sauce).
Toss those whole tomatoes in a freezer bag, and pop them in the freezer. Take them out as you need them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, or chili.
Tomatoes plus peppers plus onions plus lime juice plus salt plus cilantro equals delicious salsa. You may have to chop until you drop, but the fresh flavor will be worth it, I promise. Taste test until you get it just right. Once you have the basic formula down, have fun with it! Separate your salsa into separate little batches where you can add all kinds of things. Add in some avocado, mango, strawberries, pineapple, black beans ... you’re limited only by your imagination.
All tomato paste is, really, is tomatoes that have been reduced down and down and down some more. To make tomato paste, peel and seed your tomatoes, and then dice them into little pieces. Put tomatoes in a single layer in a medium-large sauce pan. Toss some salt over the tomatoes and cook at medium heat, uncovered, stirring once in a while, until you have tomato paste! Be patient because it can take a couple of hours for this to happen. Keep the heat low enough that the tomatoes aren’t boiling, but high enough that there’s steam coming from them. If you have too many tomatoes to stick to a single layer in a sauce pan, put your oven to work. Cook the tomatoes, with a good couple of shakes of salt, at 300 degrees. Cook uncovered in a roasting pan or dutch oven, stirring every 30 minutes until you’re left with tomato paste.
If you still have more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, your local food bank might wish to take the extras off your hands. Or perhaps your local day care or high school would love to practice making sauce?
Look for a produce exchange in your neighborhood. In many areas, you can find things like this, where excess produce is swapped. If you have too many tomatoes, maybe someone with too many zucchini would love to trade.
Hopefully, you now have no shortage of ideas for those extra tomatoes. Really, we’re lucky to have such first world problems, aren’t we?
Leanne Ely is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of SavingDinner.com, the original menu planning website, bringing families back to the dinner table for over 15 years.