What a surprise I have ended up with in my garden!
My daughter and I planted six tomato plants this spring, but realized as we were working the beds that three of the plants were grape tomatoes. We normally only plant one cherry tomato (to snack on while we are working) in the garden, so ending up three grape tomato plants, along with our one cherry, was just too much. We high tailed it back to the nursery for a few slicing tomatoes. We intended to buy a Beefsteak, Willamette and an Early Girl.
As our new plants grew, we began to realize we ended up with three grape, three cherry, two romas and one plant that’s not producing, it may be a Beefsteak — it’s hard to tell! It is frustrating that the tags were incorrect in the little pots, but what do you do?
Since we have not really been home to pick and eat for a few weeks (family vacation and the Clark County Fair) we now have, to put it mildly, an over abundance of the little buggers! We picked for some time last night and ended up harvesting maybe 5 pounds of tomatoes that are hard to do anything with, besides eat fresh, because of their size — cherry and grape tomatoes are just so hard get the skins off and de-seed!
We eat loads of fresh tomatoes, usually with oil, salt and pepper and fresh mozzarella cheese — a Caprese salad — and we can happily do that with these little guys! I also found website after website on roasting tomatoes, I might try that but I will be the first to admit that is not my favorite.
After eating our fill, I ended up slicing a bunch of the tomatoes in half and decided to dry them. I have a multilayered dehydrator, but the oven works just as well and sun drying is great also (except you do need the sunshine!)
Little dried tomatoes are fantastic in salads, on pizzas, tossed into a pasta dish or just eaten by the handful. Drying concentrates the flavor and they are like a little burst of summer during the winter months!
Oven drying: Slice the fruit and place on cookie sheets, turn oven on to the lowest temperature — multiple trays can be added. Turn the oven off over night, but leave the tomatoes in. Check the next day and repeat until the fruit is like raisins.
Sun drying: Slice fruit on to cookie sheets, cover with some sort of mesh to keep the bugs off and leave in the sun until the fruit is like raisins. It will probably take a few days. Bring them in at night and put them back out in the sun the next day, until they are done.
Dehydrating in an actual food dryer takes a few days, but I turn mine off each night, just because, and then turn it back on in the morning.
Herbs, salt or pepper can be mixed in to all of these while drying. But I am a purist; I just like the taste of the clean tomato.
Storing the dried tomatoes is easy, pack them into a freezer bag and freeze. If you think you might use them within a few weeks or want to give them as a gift, it’s nice to layer them into a jar and pour a good olive oil over them. They can stay out on the counter for a week or so, or in the fridge for a few more weeks.
However you dry them, they will be worth the effort, especially when you end up with a lot of them!
Food has always been a main focus of my family life! At 12 years old I picked berries during the summer and at 15 I started work in the local cannery. This was my summer job all through college (my father was the production manager for Norpac Foods for 30 years, so I had an in!) Each summer my mom would can and preserve fruit and vegetables so we could have "good stuff" all year long. I attended a cooking school while I lived in England for about a year, but my life took a different turn and I did not go into food professionally. My sister owns a restaurant in Colorado and my brother works for a blueberry processing plant in Silverton, OR. Like I said- a family affair! I teach video and film at Columbia River HS (love it) but I also love to cook, can and preserve. I work to use as much home grown, locally produced and organic product as I possibly can.