You’ve been watching those tomato plants growing in your garden since Memorial Day. It seems like it’s been forever since you saw the first green tomatoes appear on the vines.
Then – all of a sudden – the tomatoes ripen all at once. You’re almost overwhelmed by the crop that’s coming in.
How do you use them up before they go bad? We’ve got 12 mouth-watering ideas for you.
Around this time of year, you can barely give your tomatoes away. Even people without a vegetable garden seem to have plenty of homegrown tomatoes. But that’s a good thing…
They taste so much better than grocery store tomatoes. It hurts to see even one go to waste. If all you’ve been doing is putting them on sandwiches and salads, it’s time to step things up a notch.
Try these delicious uses for you tomatoes…
1. Eat One Like an Apple
This is what my wife likes to do with the first ripe tomato of the year. Just scarf down the whole darn thing!
Sprinkle some salt on it and let the juice dribble down your chin. You’ll instantly remember why you’ve been watering and weeding and pruning for the past three months. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
2. Grill Them Up
Another amazing way to eat your tomatoes is marinated and slightly charred on the grill in your backyard. This is a delicious summer appetizer for tomato-lovers.
Recipes you’ll find online (like this one from Simply Recipes) suggest marinating them in something easy like olive oil, salt, pepper and sliced, fresh basil. It’s smart to use tomatoes that are not extremely ripe as they’ll hold up better while grilling.
If you use a charcoal grill – it’s best to use the indirect heath method – but you can char them by putting them directly over the coals for a short time.
Check out the video below for more tips!
3. Make Homemade Salsa
This is one of my favorite things to do with homegrown tomatoes because I can also use other stuff from my garden.
There are a few different ways to make salsa – but the freshest way is kind of like a chunky pico de gallo.
You just dice up a bunch of your tomatoes. Then do the same with an onion. Add some diced jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers to spice things up. Remember – a lot of the heat from peppers comes from the seeds and white, fleshy stuff on the inside. Add at your own risk!
Finally, some chopped cilantro and a few squirts of lime juice makes it taste extra fresh. Season with salt.
This salsa tastes a lot like the stuff you get at an authentic Mexican restaurant such as El Sarape in Green Bay.
I’d suggest letting the diced tomatoes drain in a colander before you mix everything up. That way you get rid of some of the excess juice and your salsa won’t be watery. Check out these salsa secrets for more detailed tips and instructions.
Watch this video to see salsa-making in action!
4. Make Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
You haven’t really eaten spaghetti until you’ve had it with sauce made from your own tomatoes! Nothing on store shelves compares, and this is really easy to make.
First blanch the tomatoes by dropping them in boiling water for a short time. Then immediately put them in a bath of icy water. This is how you remove the skins. You could also try roasting them first.
You can add fresh basil, onion, minced garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and some brown sugar to sweeten it up, even a few splashes of wine.
After that…it’s all about the simmering.
I’d encourage you to make it your own “secret sauce,” and don’t forget to keep tasting as you go. You’ll want to let it simmer for a long time. I do it for an entire day. The longer you do so, the more the tomatoes break down and the flavors mix together.
Here are a bunch of spaghetti sauce recipes from Cooks.com to give you ideas.
Watch an expert chef make homemade sauce!
5. Marinated Tomato Slice Appetizers with Feta Cheese
This one is really easy, but fresh and yummy too.
Let some thick slices of tomato soak in a marinade on a plate for a little while. You can use balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or pick your favorite Italian dressing.
Then top the slices with crumbled Feta cheese. Of course, since you’re a Wisconsinite, you can also try other cheeses. Bleu cheese is awesome, mozzarella is perfect, Asiago is packed with flavor, and even some chunks of extra sharp cheddar will work.
6. Tomato Fruit Cocktail
Yes, the tomato is technically a fruit after all. But you rarely see it in fruit salads.
Try putting little tomato wedges – or better yet, halved cherry tomatoes – in a unique fruit cocktail. Some fruit to try with the tomatoes include: pineapple, mango, all types of berries, watermelon and cantaloupe, pears and cucumbers (also technically a fruit FYI).
The tomatoes will add a tanginess to the other, sweeter fruit.
Tomato Fruit Salad Recipes to Try:
- Heirloom Tomatoes and Stone Fruit
- Cherry Tomatoes with Kiwi , Strawberry and Mango
- Tomatoes with Pears Blueberries and Cucumber
- Tomato and Watermelon with Feta and Almonds
7. Stuffed & Broiled Tomatoes
Usually we put tomatoes on top of a dish or mixed inside. But what about putting stuff in the tomato?
Stuffed tomatoes make an impressive side dish, and there are a lot of different ideas to try. Hollow them out and fill them up with things like seasoned rice, goat cheese, artichokes and olives. You can also try bread crumbs and sausage, or make a spicy stuffed tomato with peppers.
Try out these Stuffed Tomato recipes:
- Emeril Lagasse’s Stuffed Tomato Recipe
- Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes
- Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes
- Tomatoes Stuffed with Cheese and Sausage
8. Make the Best Bloody Mary Ever
Got a juicer? Got some vodka? Time to party!
If you’re a Bloody Mary purist who refuses to drink a pre-mixed cocktail, you’ve got to try making your own with fresh tomatoes. Even without the booze – this is a refreshing summer beverage that’s packed with healthy stuff.
Even without a juicer, you can make your own tomato juice in blender. Spice it up to your liking. Throw in a stick of celery and you’re good to go!
Here are a whole bunch of different ways to make homemade bloody marys from Delish.com.
9. Chill Out With Homemade Gazpacho
Throw together a scrumptious summer soup that’s packed with garden-fresh flavor
Gazpacho is a Spanish soup that’s served cold. You’ll use ripe, uncooked tomatoes and can also add other produce from your backyard garden – including onions, cucumber and bell peppers. Season it, blend it down to the right consistency, chill and enjoy!
Check out these Gazpacho Recipes & Tips:
- Traditional Gazpacho from Simply Recipes
- You’re Doing it Wrong – Gazpacho Advice from Slate.com
- Extra Spicy Gazpacho Soup
- Chef Alton Brown’s Gazpacho Recipe
10. Make Homemade Bruschetta
Bruschetta is always a hit when you need an appetizer or an hors duevre.
This recipe is a lot like the homemade pico de gallo salsa – except it’s full of Italian flavor instead of Mexican spiciness.
Make sure to use fresh basil leaves, and a high-quality olive oil is a good idea too. You can use any kind of tomato – but a lot of the recipes we found online suggested roma or plum tomatoes. Top it with Feta and parsley. Then scoop it on to some toasted french baguette with butter and garlic. Your dinner guest will be very impressed.
For more instructions check out this recipe on AllRecipes.com
Here’s a video that takes you through it step by step:
11. Make Fried Green Tomatoes
The only thing worse than tossing our red tomatoes is all the green tomatoes that fail to ripen before the first frost. You can still get some use out of that unripe fruit with this traditional southern dish.
Green tomatoes are a lot easier to fry because they are still very firm. Trying this with ripe tomatoes might be a mess – but it’s worth trying if the fruit seems to hold together.
Just slice up the green tomatoes, coat them in a breading and fry them up. Frying is traditionally done with bacon fat and cornmeal for the breading. You can also dip the tomato slices in buttermilk or egg before you coat and fry them.
The day I wrote this my next-door neighbor asked for some of my green tomatoes. He came back in five minutes with golden brown goodness. It was my first time – and it was delicious!
Try these unique recipes:
- Traditional Fried Green Tomatoes at Simply Recipes
- Detailed Instructions from Southern Living
- You’re Doing it Wrong: Fried Tomato Advice from Slate.com
Watch Fried Green Tomatoes Being Made with a Remoulade Sauce!
12. Freeze or Can Them for Winter
Maybe the best idea of all is saving your garden tomatoes for when the Wisconsin winter arrives.
By that time, you’ll be craving that fresh flavor. You can save it for yourself by saving your tomatoes.
Freezing tomatoes is an easy way to keep them for awhile. All you need is Ziploc bags and room in your freeze. They can be raw – you don’t even have to blanch them. Just wash, core, bag them and freeze them.
Canning and preserving tomatoes is a bit trickier. You do have to boil them and the process is a bit more detailed.
Check out this video from Ball Canning for complete directions!
Bonus – Throw one at Kasey
Okay! So one of my fellow WhooNEW writers decided to be a smarty-pants and added this idea to my article when I wasn’t looking. Very funny guys!
But seriously, this isn’t a bad idea either. If you simply have too many tomatoes – they can always be used to hurl at someone you despise or at a comedian telling terrible jokes. They even have a festival for throwing tomatoes in Spain.
See the Tomatino Festival for Yourself!
What’s your favorite way to eat fresh, garden tomatoes? What’s your favorite kind of tomato?
Leave a comment and tell us!
Image Credit – Chiot’s Run via Flickr Creative Commons