Monday, August 10, 2015

Too Many Tomatoes? No Such Thing!

I never thought I'd say it, but this year we almost have too many tomatoes. I blame fellow Master Gardener Liz D., who ran a great workshop this spring on how to grow tomatoes. Not only did I walk away with new knowledge on how to grow great tomatoes but some of her green thumb must have rubbed off on me. This year's tomato crop is a whopper, and we can't eat them fast enough to keep up with the harvest.

If nature has been especially generous to you this summer and you're looking at a bumper crop of tomatoes, you have several options for storing the harvest. There are also some local options for giving away tomatoes that will do both your heart and the health of someone in the community some good!

Freezing Tomatoes
Tomatoes can be frozen and used later in soups and stews. They must be blanched and peeled, then frozen without their skins. To learn how to freeze tomatoes properly, this article from the Nebraska Cooperative Extension provide step-by-step instructions. (Hint: Use freezer-safe plastic bags and write the date when you froze the tomatoes on the outside of the bag with a waterproof magic marker. This way, you can use the oldest ones first during the winter as you are cooking with your frozen tomatoes.)

Canning Tomatoes
The art and science of canning has come a long way from your grandma's day. If you're scared you might poison someone, don't be. I was convinced I'd make a ton of mistakes and yes, I've made some over the years, but by and large, my canned foods are a big hit here at home. You can can whole tomatoes or make juice, salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce and more. It's a great idea to take a canning and food preservation class from your local Cooperative Extension office if you've never done any home canning before. Books can also be a lifesaver and teach you step-by-step how to can all sorts of garden produce, including tomatoes.

Dried Tomatoes
If you have a food dehydrator, follow the instructions to dry your tomatoes. Use the dried tomatoes in any recipe that calls for sun-dried tomatoes. Pasta recipes are especially delicious with some dried tomatoes tossed in!

Give to Friends
If you have non-gardening friends, they'll certainly appreciate a bag of juicy tomatoes. Ask friends at work or at other social gatherings if they would like tomatoes. You'll probably have more requests than you can accommodate.

Give to Food Shelters
Many local food banks accept donations of fresh produce, so if your garden has blessed you with abundance, consider blessing others with healthy fresh vegetables. Search your community for links to food panties run by the town or local churches. Many church food pantries accept donations of fresh vegetables and eggs, which are in turn distributed directly to local families.

Too many tomatoes? That's a problem many people would love to have. If you're drowning under a wave of tomatoes this summer, use one or more of these options to share the bounty or enjoy it later. When January arrives with its ice, snow and cold, you'll be thankful for that taste of summer stored in your pantry or freezer.

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