We anticipate our garden-grown tomatoes all summer. Though I must say sometimes in mid-July, it feels like the tomatoes will remain green forever. But somewhere during the dog days of summer, just like magic, tomatoes begin to change colors. One by one they ripen, and then so many tomatoes mature that we often can't keep up.
I've also been buying tomatoes that have a black tint at the farmers' market. After reading Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, I learned tomatoes with darker colors contain more phytonutrients. Lycopene, in particular, is higher in darker colored tomatoes, and this nutrient may be helpful for cancer, particularly prostate cancer. More black tomatoes have been appearing at the markets these past few years and this past weekend. Many farmers' with heirloom tomatos have a tomato called Black Prince, which is more dark red than black. Last Saturday I bought these black cherry tomatoes from Grouse Mountain Farm.
|The dark tomatoes are the black cherry tomatoes.|
Saving your tomatoes
Northwest weather can be unpredictable near the end of summer, and sometimes fall starts overnight. Once it rains, the rain and grey days could continue. After a week of soggy weather, you begin to wonder: is summer over? And sometimes it is, but it looks like this week we get a reprieve.
A friend of mine got worried last week after the thunderstorms and downpours. She pulled all her tomato plants. Sometimes if tomato leaves get too damp in August, the plants get blight. This can spread quickly and you might lose all your green tomatoes if you wait too long. The blight spores can infect the soil, so it could infect plants there next year. I keep all the leaves of the plant off the ground and check the plants daily when we get early fall rains. We grow our tomatoes in big container pots because a few years ago we had a severe blight.
Keep all the flowers pinched off as fall nears, and if you have to pull the tomatoes early, take them out by the long plant stems, cutting each stem close to the roots. Or you can pull the entire plant up and hang it in the garage. Tie the stems in a bundle of 3 to 5 stems and hang them upside down in a cool dark room, like a garage. I tried it last year. I just used twine and wasn't sure it would even work but we had tomatoes ripen for about a month after the stems were hung. They weren't as sweet as sun ripened, but they were at least as good as store bought and much cheaper than buying them.
If you end up with an abundance, roast them and make tomato paste. It's so easy I hardly consider it a recipe, but it's a cool tip for preserving the harvest.
Right now you can get the best prices for tomatoes at the market. And check out all the varieties farmers grow now. I think black is the new red for tomatoes!
Preserving tomatoes, the easy way
Many people are into canning but we live in a small space and canning takes some big pots and requires jars and room for sterilizing them. Then you need room to store all the jars. I have a freezer and a dehydrator for putting food away for the winter. One season, I blanched all the tomatoes, removed the skins and froze them whole. I liked pulling the tomatoes out in mid winter but the whole tomatoes took up precious space in my freezer.
Another season, I used the dehydrator.
I wanted a more concentrated paste, and I didn't look for a recipe, but if I had, I might have found something like this, which is complicated, and who wants that? Why take so much trouble to lose the skins if you've using your own tomatoes and you don't have to worry about pesticides? And if the skins are dark in color don't they contain most of the nutrients? And all that jar sterilizing . . . I want easy. And here it is:
Easy Home Made Tomato Paste
(Makes about 2 cups)
This is a no-fuss tomato paste. It's quick to make and easy to use. I always leave the skins on for more phytonutrients. If you have larger tomatoes, you can still roast them, but it will take longer.
8 cups of cut cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Hot sauce or freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
1. Cut tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 200F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until tomatoes are quite soft.
2. Place the tomatoes, salt and hot sauce or pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until thick and smooth.
3. Spoon sauce into ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen, remove cubes and place them in a plastic bag. Label and use them as desired. These little cubes add lots of great phytonutrients to your meals.
|Shepherd's Pie with vegetables and Field Roast, before the potato topping. I used two tomato cubes, 1 teaspoon arrowroot and 3/4 cup of water for the sauce.|
Tomato abundance--one more reason to love the last days of summer. May your days be filled with ripe tomatoes!