Wondering what to do with a glut of tomatoes? Lovely as it is to receive a bumper harvest of any crop, when it all comes at once, you can’t possibly eat it all. Friends and neighbours will only take so much, and it’s such a shame to see all your delicious food go past its best and end up on the compost heap.
We asked gardening bloggers what they do when they haven’t been able to resist growing too many tomato plants. If you’re looking for new ways to preserve your tomatoes, here are six great ideas to try…
- Homemade passata
- Dried tomatoes
- Tomato chutney
- Tomato relish
- Pickled tomatoes
- Tomato-based ‘ready meals’
1. Homemade passata
A central part of a Mediterranean diet, passata offers a taste of summer and is the perfect base for pasta sauces, chillies and more. For the true Italian method, wash and prep your tomatoes, removing the seeds, then blanch them in boiling water until they soften and the skins begin to peel. Now push through a sieve or mouli, until only the skins remain.
Sterilise your storage jars or bottles, add a leaf or two of fresh basil to each, and stir salt into the tomato paste just before pouring. Fill your jars to within a couple of centimetres of the top, then seal and boil for at least half an hour and allow to cool overnight.
Looking for a quicker result? Choclette, from Tin & Thyme makes her easy tomato sauce by blitzing all the raw ingredients in a blender before reducing it at a low simmer on the hob. See her recipe for the full method, and to discover why a dash of tamari can make all the difference to the final flavour!
Short on freezer space? Mandy, at MandyCanUDigIt, also uses the hob to produce a deliciously rich and super-concentrated tomato sauce that’s suitable for freezing. For full instructions check out her post on how to deal with a bumper crop of tomatoes.
And if you’re going to preserve anything successfully, you’ll need to know how to sterilise your bottles and jars. Choclette’s detailed instructions over at Tin & Thyme will help you with the process, whether you prefer the dishwasher, oven, microwave or water bath method. As she says, “there’s nothing more disappointing than opening a jar of mould.”
2. Dried tomatoes
One of the best ways to preserve tomatoes is to dehydrate them, says Carla Whitehouse from @flowers_and_veg_at_no_57.The ancient practice of removing moisture from fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish, read Carla’s post explaining how dehydrating fresh food stops “micro-organisms like yeast, mould, and bacteria from growing, and preserves food for future use while keeping nutrients intact.”
Monika Brzoza, who shares beautiful photography via @monikabrzoza (and runs a professional gardening business via @BloomingSistersLondon) says dehydrating is also her favourite preservation method. She stores her dried tomatoes in herb oil with some chillies added or loose in airtight jars – oh, and she saves some to serve as crisps which she says taste lovely sprinkled with salt and garlic pepper!
If you don’t have a dehydrator, simply use your oven to dry your tomato glut. Just cut into slices and spread in a single layer over a baking tray or rack, and pop them in the oven on a low heat until brittle. Kev at An English Homestead says he “dries carrots and tomatoes to use in stews and soups. I store these in jars so no plastic is used and I have some open-fronted shelves in a purpose-built pantry so we know how much we have left.”
3. Tomato chutney
Who can resist the aroma from a bubbling pan of spicy tomato chutney? Katie at The Marmalade Teapot says: “one of my favourite & most popular preserves is my tomato chutney. It’s great with cheese, in sandwiches, salads or even tossed through some pasta. I like to pot this up into little chutney jars & give away as gifts over the festive period.” Does that sound tempting? Head over to Katie’s blog for the full method – this is a really delicious recipe that anyone can try.
4. Tomato relish
If you like a little heat, you might also consider making this spicy tomato relish. Over at the popular blog and YouTube channel, In the Garden with Eli and Kate, the ladies used up the last of the beefsteak ‘Marmane’ tomatoes from their greenhouse by doing just that.
You’ll need to skin your tomatoes for this recipe. An easy process, Eli says all you need to do is, “make a cross in the bottom then put them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Take them out and plunge them in ice water for 30 seconds. The skin comes right off.” Do check out their blog post for the full instructions.
A good tip for home chutney-makers comes courtesy of Richard from The Veg Grower Podcast. He prefers a long slow cook to release all the flavours, and so uses a slow cooker. If you do have to use a large saucepan, he says, “one key thing I learned is that when making chutneys over a few hours, make sure to give the mixture a little stir every now and then so as not to let the mixture catch.”
5. Pickled tomatoes
Sam, aka the Hairy Horticulturist, is a big fan of pickling. He says, “you might disagree but I believe you can pickle anything and I’m a big fan of pickled onions, beetroot, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes and cucamelons… Grab some vinegar, reuse some glass jars and discover endless recipes online! Get on, give it a try, you won’t regret it.”
When people think of pickles, they often think of hard veg like onions or beetroot, but you can easily pickle tomatoes too. Looking for a recipe? Head over to BBC Food for full ingredients and instructions from much-loved cookery expert Nigel Slater – all you need is vinegar, pickling spice, sterilised glass jars, a saucepan and a sense of culinary adventure.
6. Tomato-based ‘ready meals’
Because tomatoes make such a great base for sauces and stews, it’s a good idea to batch cook your glut and freeze it down so that you’ve always got a tasty home-made ready meal waiting for you in the freezer when you’re late home from work, or in too much of a rush to cook from scratch. Richard at The Veg Grower Podcast told us that he likes to stock his freezer with homemade curries, stews and bolognaise to see him through the cold winter months.
Claire Crawford, at @sowing_at_the_stoop, makes a great pasta sauce which she pops into the freezer ready for dark winter evenings. The method? “Roast tomatoes and courgettes with onions and garlic, and some fresh rosemary in a little oil.” Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees until the tomatoes begin to caramelise. Once they’ve cooled, blitz with a hand blender, and freeze. Claire says, “it’s delicious stirred through pasta for a meat-free meal, or poured over cod and baked again in the oven.”
Andrew Oldham at Life on Pig Row uses a similar recipe and technique – he says “Remember that this sauce will reduce more when you come to cook it again so add water to the pan and cook it through before adding to cooking meat.”
We hope our suggestions on preserving tomatoes give you some great ideas for dealing with your own tomato glut. Whether you decide to freeze, dry, pickle, oven roast or stew your fruit, do make sure you use it up. As Andrew says, even if your tomatoes are a little past their best, “don’t chuck them, sauce them!”
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