Friday, April 1, 2011


On this annoyingly snowy April Fool's Day, many New Englanders might be having the same thoughts as me: I should get my tomato seedlings started.  Or they might have had the thought a day or so ago, when the snowbanks were just about gone and the garden reappeared from under its winter blanket.

Last year I planted too many tomatoes, as usual; we ended up with 50-odd plants in the ground. Of course, when I planted my seedlings, I was about 4 months pregnant, so we'll blame that on second trimester energy.

However, when they started to ripen, I was well into the third trimester, exhausted, with swollen ankles and feet that I was ordered to stay off of as much as possible. My husband did the majority of the picking, and no canning was to happen last summer by my hand.  We ended up with several overflowing baskets full, as last summer was one of the hottest to happen in a long time, and the plants produced prolifically:

Tons of tomatoes!
 We ate a lot of the tomatoes fresh, gave a bunch away, but what to do with the rest?

Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes and basil, and fresh (but not homemade) mozzarella.
Well, it might seem surprising, but you can actually freeze whole tomatoes.  Don't expect to put them on your salad later, but they are surprisingly resilient and easy to work with after the fact.  Just pop them into some freezer bags and toss them in the freezer, easy as that.  You can wash them or not, it doesn't really make a difference.

Frosty tomatoes
To use frozen tomatoes, just rinse them under cool water and the skins will split so you can peel them right off.

A pan of peeled tomatoes
You can then use them in any cooked tomato recipe you like.  I filled up my turkey roaster with peeled tomatoes (I also sliced off any bad spots - just be careful when using a knife on frozen goods) and threw them in the oven at about 400, stirring occasionally.  I cooked them until they fell apart, then pureed them with a stick blender, and cooked them a bit more to concentrate them a bit.  Then I put them in a pan with some other veggies and meatballs.  I wish the basil and oregano had still been available fresh from the garden, but dried was fine.  A little salt and pepper, and viola, homemade pasta sauce.

Sauce cooked down, then pureed
Now, I don't mind tomato seeds, but if you do, you could run this through a food mill to get rid of them before adding it to the meatballs, veggies, and herbs.  It made a delicious sauce - a bit lighter in color than your typical supermarket can, because we grow a lot of colored heirlooms, but very tasty and fresh nonetheless, and a lot less sodium.

So if you want to keep that garden bounty going, and don't want to feel bad about starting too many tomatoes, keep your freezer open as an option. 

Our little pumpkin, who won't be eating tomatoes until summer 2012.

1 comment:

meemsnyc said...

I'll have to try to freeze tomatoes whole this year. Thanks for the tip.