Nan Sterman

Wed June 25, 2014 2:46pm

I love tomatoes but once they start to ripen, I’m often inundated with more of the juicy red orbs than my family can eat. If you have that “problem,” here are some ideas for dealing with the issue of too many tomatoes.
The easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them whole. Simply rinse the fruits, pat them dry, then pack loosely into zip-top bags. Lay the bags on a cookie sheet in the freezer until the tomatoes are rock hard. Then remove the cookie sheet and stack the bags. I stack mine upright in some inexpensive plastic baskets that just happen to fit the freezer shelf.  
One great thing about freezing tomatoes is that you can use a few at a time or an entire bag. To use, fill a bowl with tap water and immerse the tomatoes, a few at a time. The skin will start to peel back on its own, far enough for you to grab with a pairing knife and pull off the rest of the way. Or, put the tomatoes in a microwave-proof bowl and thaw that way. Remove the skins from thawed tomatoes — or not if it doesn’t bother you or if you plan to put them through the food processor. 
If you have time, make a big batch of homemade marinara to freeze, can or use fresh. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or small soup pot. Add one diced onion, five cloves of chopped garlic, a tablespoon (or more) of fresh oregano leaves, and one or two fresh bay leaves. Cook the mixture until the onion is translucent. Then add 12 cups of peeled tomatoes (fresh or thawed) with a pinch of sugar to the pot. Simmer on low for two hours — add fresh chopped basil at the end. Delicious!
Dehydrate fresh tomatoes using a dehydrator according to manufacturer’s directions or dehydrate them in your oven. For oven dehydration, slice tomatoes into ¼-inch slices and place in single layers on a baking sheet, taking care not to crowd them. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with kosher salt and any other herbs you’d like.
Set the oven to 200 degrees (or its lowest setting). Space oven racks equally to ensure plenty of air flow. Place the cookie sheets in the oven for six to 12 hours, until they are dry and leathery. Store the dehydrated fruits in a zip-top bag and use as you need them. 
Tomatoes are such a great ingredient for so many dishes, sauces, drinks, and more — don’t let yours go to waste!
For more gardening tips and inspiration catch “A Growing Passion” on KPBS or at