Sunday Morning Garden-ish: A Cry for Help


Multiply the above haul by infinity, and you can visualize the daunting pile of homegrown tomatoes that confront me when I approach my kitchen. And the mister brings in more sacks from the garden every day!

We’ve made so many salads, salsas and pots of sauce. We’ve inundated friends and neighbors with baskets full of tomatoes. We’ve contemplated shoving small bags of them through mail slots and leaving sacks of tomatoes in strangers’ unlocked cars.

This happens every year, but it would be easier to change the course of the Mississippi than to alter the mister’s tomato-planting drive. Dehydrating tomatoes and packing them in olive oil is one strategy I’ve used. Roasting them in olive oil, salt and pepper and squirreling away for later addition to various meals is another.

Anyone got any fresh ideas, such as a good recipe for tomato jam? Or blueprints for a tomato trebuchet I can use to pelt distant homes that display Trump signs?

All creative suggestions that don’t involve felonies or unnatural behavior welcome! Open thread for discussion of non-tomato topics too!

70 replies
  1. 1
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    A charity suggestion. Are there any food banks or soup kitchens nearby? As someone who had used them in the past, the hardest thing to get is fresh produce. Indeed, the lack of same is what makes a place truly a “food desert”. So ask around.

  2. 2
    Betty Cracker says:

    @CarolDuhart2: That’s a great suggestion! There are none nearby, but I’d be willing to drive into town if they’ll take fresh produce. Thank you!

  3. 3
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Have you tried eating them? Works for me every year. ;-)

  4. 4
    Gin & Tonic says:

    I have made a really good tomato jam, but the margins are to small for me to post it.

    Actually, if you search this blog for August or September of last year, I think I posted it (I can’t do that easily from here)

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CarolDuhart2: @Betty Cracker: That’s what I was going to do with my excess this year. If I had any excess. My nite owl wife says we got hit hard by hail again last night. Just getting ready to go out and assess the damage.

  6. 6
    thruppence says:

    Here in Northern California it’s not tomato season yet, but I go every week to the farmer’s market with hope and longing for home grown tomatoes.

  7. 7
    germy says:

    A hot dog vendor shut his booth to avoid participating in a “Fox and Friends” live segment:

    Hero of the day. Good for him for not enabling their condescending fun.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    rikyrah says:

    I love tomatoes. I don’t grow anything, and just smile at those of you that can.
    Completely agree with the food bank. Some lucky families would love to fresh grown tomatoes.

  10. 10
    motopilot says:

    With regard to OzarkHillbilly’s comment, one good way of using tomatoes for a lunch meal is to make peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. I know it sounds horrible, but my mother got me hooked on them years ago and now I make a point of using my first tomato harvest to make this sandwich with them. It will shock you how good this is. (I uses Early Girl tomatoes and Adam’s all-natural peanut butter.)

  11. 11
  12. 12
    jeffreyw says:

    We bought one of these a while back. Not a fan of carrot juice but it does tomatoes quite well – separates the juice from the seeds and skins. Boil the juice down, add stuff to it to make tomato soup, pizza sauce or just plain tomato sauce.

  13. 13

    First, I can email you my address, feel free to ship any excess to me. Second, if you head over to our place, JeffreyW always has a bumper crop and comes up with creative ways.

  14. 14
    germy says:

    Tomato juice and vodka. Chilled for a nice hot summer.

  15. 15

    On a personal note, I’m really digging the seller of my soon (fingers crossed) to be new home. She knew she was selling way back in March, but still planted a vegetable garden. She was looking for a buyer like me (and turned down two investors who probably offered cash and possibly more than I was able to offer) to have her beloved home go to someone who would love it as she does.

    Buying in a sellers’ market is tough, so this means even more to me.

  16. 16
    Nylund says:

    We’ve contemplated shoving small bags of them through mail slots and leaving sacks of tomatoes in strangers’ unlocked cars.

    When I was a teenager, if a friend of mine visited and left his car unlocked in the driveway, he was sure to discover a bag of tomatoes in his car when he left. She would also bring them to the local retirement center, give tomatoes away at the Y, and pretty much anywhere you can think of. Getting rid of excess tomatoes was a full-time job. This was, of course, after our freezer had already been filled with dozens of jars of any and every type of tomato-based sauce one can think of.

  17. 17
    Catherine D. says:

    Freeze them on trays and then bag them. I use a vacuum sealer. It’s wonderful to pull bags out during the off-season.

    Just run them under hot water and the skins will slide right off.

  18. 18
    Gvg says:

    Do either of you work in an office? In mine we have an arrangement where we can send out a division email if we put personal in the header so people know it’s not an urgent work related email. I have disposed of mom’s excess grapefruit and my excess winter lettuce ( large trash bag full end of season harvest before heat wave)
    There is also putting a handmade sign “free”beside pile of excess fruit at road. I recommend shade. Any traffic and it will be gone soon.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    jharp says:

    shakshuka (Arabic: شكشوكة‎‎; Hebrew: שקשוקה‎‎ ) is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. It is a staple dish throughout North Africa and the Levant, and its origin is unknown.

  21. 21
    Stella says:

    Church food programs may take them too, if you can bring them by on the correct days.

    I can mine. It’s a simple process which requires no special equipment beyond a couple of large pots, a wide mouth funnel, and a measuring spoon. Eat ’em all year long.

  22. 22
    laura says:

    Do you have a local food pantry, senior gleaners, or other need based local service? Fresh fruit and vegetables are always welcome, needed and used. You may get a tax credit as well.

  23. 23
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    I know it borders on sacrilege but nobody said you have to keep all your plants. You could yank a couple & reduce the harvest. But the first suggestion is the best, see if you can find second harvest or a food shelve that would welcome the surplus.

  24. 24
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    You could can them and ship them[1] to Nigeria:

    The moth, Tuta absoluta, has destroyed 80% of farms in Kaduna, Nigeria’s largest tomato-producing state, leading the government there to declare a state of emergency. The moth, also known as the tomato leaf miner, ravages crops by feeding on fruits and burrowing in stalks. It reproduces incredibly quickly, breeding up to 12 generations per year if conditions are favorable. It is believed to have originated in South America in the early 1900s, and later spread to Europe before crossing over to sub-Saharan Africa.

    In Nigeria, where tomatoes are a staple of local diets, the moth’s effects are devastating. Retail prices for a handful of tomatoes at local markets have risen from N100 ($0.50) to N500 ($2.50). Farmers are reporting steep losses and a new $20 million tomato-paste factory has halted production due to the shortages.

    Given the moth’s ability also to attack crops like pepper and potatoes, Audu Ogbeh, Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, has warned that the pest may “create serious problems for food security” in the country. Ogbeh says experts are investigating how to control the pest’s damage and prevent its spread, which has gone largely unchecked until now.



    [1] Not intended to be an actual proposal.

  25. 25
    WaterGirl says:

    @TaMara (HFG): I saw your comment in the recipe thread from Friday night – congratulations on finally finding something! Can you point me to a thread with more details?

    edit: That’s so amazing and so smart that she planted the vegetable garden! I want to hear more about the new place.

  26. 26

    Be sure to eat plenty of them yourself. Tomatoes are so good for you–and for your husband, too.

  27. 27
    Elmo says:

    Conserva. Homemade tomato paste.
    It’s a ton of work, and takes an astonishing amount of tomatoes to make a single pan, but if you have enough tomatoes it’s totally worth it.

  28. 28
    gene108 says:

    Have you tried tomato chutney?

    1/2 large onion
    3-4 medium tomatoes
    2 cloves garlic
    red chili or green chilies to taste

    Sautéed onions, garlic and chilies in pan until onions are tender, ad the chopped tomatoes until the tomatoes get mushy.

    Let cool.

    Purée in blender.

    There are other spice mixes people use, such as mustard seeds, ginger, cumin seeds and turmeric, but the above is also works.

  29. 29
    Doug R says:

    I know our local markets sell local heirloom tomatoes. Have you tried approaching your local produce market? You may even get a few cents a pound.

  30. 30
    dsc says:

    Best recipe ever if you pressure can:

    Putting Food By Country Tomato Soup recipe. My most requested Christmas gift. The flavor can penetrate the stuffiest nose in the dead of winter and, with a grilled cheese, it will transport you back to being 8 years old and dipping the corner into a fragrant bowl of summer sunshine. MMMMMMM.

  31. 31
    Mike in NC says:

    @jharp: Looks yummy.

  32. 32

    tomato paste goes through a s*t-ton of tomatoes. i saw a nice-looking plum tomato in your haul… check out this tuturoial: very jealous; i’ve never grown enough tomatoes that i could make paste!

  33. 33

    @WaterGirl: When it’s a done deal, I will post photos. I’m still very cautious right now, trying not to get my heartbroken (again). My mortgage broker is now used to several calls a day looking for reassurance that all is in line. Inspection is on Tuesday….

    Here is the kitchen:


  34. 34
    Mike in NC says:

    Just saw on MSNBC where National Review is begging Mitt Rmoney to launch a third party run in a futile effort to derail Drumpf’s runaway train. Meanwhile, Rubio is kissing Drumpf’s ass in order to salvage his own sinking political career. Sad!

  35. 35
    Miss Bianca says:

    @TaMara (HFG): that’s wonderful! Congratulations!

  36. 36
    debbie says:

    @TaMara (HFG):

    Nice! Light, bright, and open!

  37. 37
    debbie says:

    Betty, what about turning them all into sun-dried? Then you’d have snacks whenever.

  38. 38
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @TaMara (HFG):
    Gorgeous! Though I don’t see a lot of counter work space, are you thinkig of some sort of island in the open space? My own kitchen is short on work space & a constant constraint to what I would like to do.

  39. 39
    laura says:

    @TaMara (HFG): that’s a seriously room triangle between the fridge, sink and stove. Great for rattling the pots and pans.

  40. 40
    ThresherK (GPad) says:

    Wow. “Florida man” makes news in a good way with tomatoes in May. Lifelong New Englander here, and I am a bit jealous.

  41. 41

    @Schlemazel Khan: The side you can’t see is long with counter space and cupboards, but I’m still thinking a rolling island, because when I get cooking, I like a lot of room to spread ingredients out.

  42. 42
    bemused says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Still? This late in the game? I seriously doubt a third party conservative run would have ever had the remotest chance of happening.

  43. 43
    benw says:

    @TaMara (HFG): good luck! Closing on a house is stressful but you sound on top of things.

    I’m doing some iPhone maintenance and hanging the screen doors. Huzzah warmth!

  44. 44
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @TaMara (HFG):
    Yeah, thats what we did. We have a tiny kitchen so the roller is also tiny but it is better than nothing

  45. 45
    Marvel says:

    3 words:

    Green Tomato Chutney — a savory and wonderful thing.

  46. 46
    amygdala says:

    @jharp: I second shakshuka. Making a big batch right now, using a variant of Ottolenghi’s recipe (with some chopped preserved lemon added). The tomato-pepper base freezes well, which makes for a tasty breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper with only 15 minutes or so of reheating, poaching eggs in the sauce, and making some toast.

    There are endless versions of shakshuka, including some with just tomatoes and no peppers. I think pretty much every country around the Mediterranean has a version of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.

  47. 47
    Elmo says:

    @TaMara (HFG): Track lighting! Modern cabinets! SPAAAAAACE!!!!
    I haz kitchen envy.

  48. 48
    eclare says:

    @Schlemazel Khan: Ha, all in perspective. I saw the kitchen and thought, wow, what great counter space!

  49. 49
    eclare says:

    @TaMara (HFG): I have one with storage too, I think I ordered it from Crate and Barrel. Also came with sides that extend.

  50. 50

    @gene108: Second the tomato chutney idea.
    I can give you a recipe for a really spicy chutney if you want.

  51. 51
    Betty Cracker says:

    UPDATE: I read a dozen or so simple tomato jam recipes (where “simple” is defined as no peeling, canning, etc.) and whipped up a small batch. I’m waiting for it to cool so I can jar it and throw it in the fridge for later use as a burger condiment. But preliminary indications are it’s damn tasty, so I may have to scale up production. Thanks for the suggestions, all!

    @TaMara (HFG): Very nice!

  52. 52
    Gravie says:

    Gazpacho! Great for a Florida summer.

  53. 53
    Jane in Philly says:

    Made lots of this last year w/my cherry tomatoes. Stays for a long time in a sterilized jar under oil in fridge. Freezes great in zippies. Add it to everything!

  54. 54
    WaterGirl says:

    @TaMara (HFG): Wow!!! Crossing my fingers for you.

  55. 55

    Spicy Tomato Chutney
    Tomato Sauce
    Sundried or Oven dried tomatoes.

  56. 56

    @Betty Cracker: Thank you! And I’m hoping you’ll share that recipe, because…yum.

  57. 57
    NCSteve says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I found out last year that there’s nothing that uses up a shitton of excess tomatoes (and excess basil if you go crazy rooting cuttings and replanting it like I do) like halving and seeding them, roasting them until they caramelize (which takes forever if you don’t leave enough space between them on the sheet pan, which you had better cover with parchment paper if you ever want to use it again) and then turning them into cream of tomato soup.

    I put it (like most soups and stews) portion them out into two serving units in quart freezer bags and let them freeze flat and then basically shelve them like books or pack them into nooks and crannies in the freezer.

    Granted my serving suggestion (with a grilled three cheese sandwich on homemade bread in late January/early February while horrible frozen shit falls from the sky and entombs you into your house for a day) isn’t really applicable to your neck of the woods, but on those bone-chilling 59 degree winter days, it’ll be great.

  58. 58
    May says:

    Pick them while they are still green and make pickles (canned or refrigerator). Then you can make fried green pickled tomatoes whenever you like!

  59. 59
    Bob In Portland says:

    We’ve got four females to plant in our backyard. Last year got some pretty good marijuana from a short season off of one plant. When I’m sitting around working on my music I occasionally will smoke some of that. We have a sunny backyard, so the plants should shoot right up.

    Which presidential candidate supports the legalization of marijuana? That’s right. Burn one for Bernie. Which candidate is against marijuana legalization and gets money from private prison corporations and has oxycontin pushers on her campaign.

    Four more years of the drug war under Hillary. Four more years of white cops arresting black and Latino youth. Four more years of driving marijuana trade to criminals. For more years of profit for H. Clinton’s political allies.

    Thanks, Villagers. You’ve made your choice.

  60. 60
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Chutney chutney chutney. Great for the months when anything claiming to be fresh tomato is a lie.

  61. 61
    Betty Cracker says:

    @NCSteve: That sounds really good — we love tomato soup and have an absurd excess of basil! Do you have a particular cream of tomato soup recipe to recommend?

    @TaMara (HFG): Here’s the quick and dirty version: Fill a blender to about 2 inches from the top with cherry tomatoes. Add diced jalapeno, 2 minced cloves of garlic, half a cup of light brown sugar, juice of one small lemon, 1-1/5 tsp salt, several grinds of black pepper, tsp of ginger, 1/2 tsp cumin and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Pulse until well blended but not totally liquified.

    Pour contents into large saucepan, add cinnamon stick and boil for about 10 minutes. Then simmer at lower heat until the sauce reduces considerably and has a jammy consistency. Jar and refrigerate. I ended up with a bit more than a cup.

  62. 62
    Immanentize says:

    Betty — has someone suggested tomato pie? I love it so – like southern quiche. I can upload the recipe when I get back from shopping.

  63. 63
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Immanentize: Please do! Thanks!

  64. 64
    NotMax says:

    Well, know for sure you’ve got a regular supply of eggs, so how about a tomato souffle?

  65. 65

    @Betty Cracker: Thank you, I’ve copied it. Can’t wait to try it.

  66. 66
    NCSteve says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    How you do this depends on whether you have, or want to use, a food mill. Also, I’m an eyeball and tasting spoon kind of cook, so I’m not great on how much of anything to use.

    I just make a little x on the bottom of the tomatoes blanch them for 30 seconds, drop them in an ice bath and fruit just squirts right out of the skin. Or you you can leave the skin on and run them through the mill after they’re roasted. I’ll assume the latter.

    Line two sheet pans with parchment paper (unless you love using Brillo pads). Preheat the oven to 325. Cut the tomatoes (five or six large ones, more if using smaller) in half horizontally (important!). Poke your finger into each of the holes over the disposal and clean out all the seedy acidic goo. Put them on the pans with at least a couple of inches of separation if large, less if small, sprinkle, brush or spray them with regular old nonvirginal olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper and roast them for two hours.

    Cooking time will vary with size so check after an hour to make sure they don’t seem to be cooking too fast. If you’re mixing cherries up with globes, try gooshing them up next to the big ones. After two hours, crank the heat up to 400 for half an hour, but check after 20. You want to brown them a bit, not burn them, and you don’t really realize how much sugar there is in a tomato until you’ve accidentally carbonized one.

    While they cool, saute a couple of finely diced carrots and a diced medium onion in butter. When the carrot and onion are soft, mill in the tomatoes, or just dump ’em in if you blanched and peeled them. Add a teaspoon of fresh thyme and up to a quarter cup of basil leaves. Add in a good shot of sherry or vodka, depending on your tastes and and puree the whole mess with a stick blender. Thin it down with a cup to a cup and a half of chicken stock, and simmer over low heat for fifteen to twenty minutes. Give it a taste after ten. You may want to add more basil and puree it further.

    Turn off the heat and whisk in a cup of cream. Give it another taste. I usually have to add a teaspoon or two of sugar to make it right, salt, pepper, and more basil.

  67. 67
    aymp says:

    Here’s a recipe I’ve made once when a storm knocked all the green tomatoes off my plants. If you have more tomatoes than you can use, here’s Green tomato Relish.
    3 lbs green tomatoes
    2 med large onions
    2 green peppers
    1.5 tsp salt
    1 or 2 hot peppers depending on preference
    1 cup vinegar
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp allspice
    1.5 tsp dry mustard
    1/3 cup sugar
    cook for approx. 15 minutes

    Enjoy! It’s a great combination of sweet, sour and spicy.

  68. 68
    Tasha says:

    You mentioned drying then covering in olive oil. An enhancement to that is to stick most of the dried tomatoes in a plastic bag and freeze; then pull them out and add to the jar of oil as you use the tomatoes that are in there. Saves on olive oil (and space), but you don’t get as much tasty oil for salad dressing.

  69. 69
    Betty Cracker says:

    Thanks again, everyone, for all the excellent suggestions and recipes. I’m enjoying the easy tomato jam described in #61 above on a bagel, and it’s delicious, if I say so myself.

  70. 70

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