As the end of summer approaches and the first frost looms not far behind, I usually began to get a bit anxious about harvesting and preserving my summer vegetables. In particular, homegrown, ripe tomatoes. I truly love tomatoes and have been known to hoard as many as possible for preserving to enjoy a taste of summer during the brutal winter months.
Every year, I grow an abundance of tomato varieties from seeds started indoors then hardened and transplanted outside after the last frost. In my area, USDA Zone 6B, I keep them protected with homemade cloches until the outdoor temperatures are warm and steady. As the plants grow, I typically pinch of the suckers and create new seedlings by placing the cuttings in a shady, moist area of my garden I generally use for outdoor propagation. The cuttings usually take root after a couple of weeks and then I plant them in the main garden or give them away to friends and family.
My favorite methods for preserving harvested tomatoes are canning and drying/dehydrating. However, I occasionally dig up my plants and bring them indoors to hang up in a cool, dry area to allow the green tomatoes to ripen at the end of the growing season. Another method I use is to pick the best green tomatoes from the plant before the first frost and bring them indoors. I gently place them on a tabletop in a cool, dry area, making sure they do not touch each other. This allows them to ripen slowly in a protected environment over the winter.
I have included a few of my family’s favorite recipes below. Happy Gardening!
Tomatoes and Rice Bake
3 large tomatoes (peeled and sliced)
1 cup of cooked white rice
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley
1 large sweet pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup of fresh, grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Liberally coat a baking dish with extra virgin olive oil, then add a layer of the slice tomatoes. Sprinkle with a bit of the grated cheese, then cover with a layer of cooked rice and peppers. Continue layering until the dish is full ending with the topped tomatoes. Place small pieces of the butter on top, then cover with foil tightly. Place the dish in the preheated oven for 20 mins. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for and additional 15 mins. Remove carefully from the oven and sprinkle the fresh parsley on top. Serve hot.
Butter a baking dish; put in a layer of tomatoes; sprinkle with sugar, and cover with rice and peppers. Alternate the layers until dish is full, having the tomato on top. Dot with the butter; bake (covered) three-fourths of an hour; uncover and bake for quarter of an hour longer, serve hot.
Stewed Tomatoes, Corn and Okra
3 large tomatoes
4 cups of okra, trimmed and cut
1 cup of fresh corn kennels
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of green pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon butter
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 slices of bacon
Place tomatoes in a rapidly pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then remove them carefully. Gently peel off the skin of the tomatoes and place them in a large pot along with the onions, pepper, sugar, salt, pepper and butter. Cover the pot and boil on medium heat for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender, stirring regularly.
In a heated sauce pan, add the bacon slices and cook until crispy. Then add the bacon and rendered fat to the pot of stewed tomatoes along with the okra and corn. Continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes then remove from the heat. Serve hot in a bowl or over a bed of hot, buttered cooked rice.