12 Things to Do With All Those Tomatoes From Your Wisconsin Garden [Recipes & Videos]

Wisconsin-grown tomatoes
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 theΒ  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,Β  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:

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:

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:

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:

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?Β  What’s your favorite kind of tomato?

Leave a comment and tell us!

Image Credit – Chiot’s Run via Flickr Creative Commons


  1. Great ideas – I’ve yet to grill or stuff/bake tomatoes. On my list to try.

    • Same here, Jeanette. Fried green tomatoes is another one I’m definitely going to try. I’m always left with a bunch of unripe stuff at the end of the year. But when I tried my neighbors I was really impressed. Kind of like fried okra – except tangier and less gooey. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thanks for including a link to my unorthodox fruit salad! Love all your suggestions!

  3. This is interesting…After draining the excess juice off the prepped salsa through a colander, we decided to taste the juice. It was DELICIOUS! (it contained all the seasoning we had used in our salsa) We put it in a jar and have it in the refrigerator to use for a veggie drink or any variation of a Bloody/Virgin Mary. Absolutely nothing goes to waste! πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for writing this up! This is my first year with tomatoes, and I didn’t realize just how outta hand they could get. Wound up with 30 plants and a ton of tomatoes. Everyone I know has their own tomato plants, and I’ve made so much salsa I’m running out of pitchers to store it all in!

  5. lolol! I just realized when it said ‘throw one at kasey’ kasey was u!!!!!!!!!! hehehe thats funnyyy

  6. Suanne B says

    Have so many tomatoes I’m looking for a non hot salsa recipe (we don’t do spicy or hot)
    Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  7. Great ideas. I’m trying them all!

  8. Thanks for the ideas. Being southern and cooking green tomatoes The cornmeal is a part of the southern originated fried fruit. Tomato is not a vegetable. Try dicing the tomatoes, putting them in egg and tossing them in the cornmeal. You get more coating to hold in the tomato and of corse they are best eaten right away. I came upon your site looking to find a recipe for pickled green tomatoes, one to add to your list and don’t forget good old homemade tomato soup.

  9. Great to know they can just be frozen. Can I do this with my cherry tomatoes too?

    • You can! I just put the whole, mini tomatoes on a cookie sheet and pop it into the freezer. When they are frozen, I bag them up and put back in the freezer. Great for soups, sauces, casseroles, etc. during the long, cold winter!

  10. Thank you for the ideas for my garden tomatoes, and thank you for the laugh!!! Can’t wait to try the tomato sauce. The video was great.

  11. Homemade tomato soup is another way to go with the extra tomatoes. Add some cream and some basil, even bleu cheese and some croutons on top. Mmm πŸ™‚

  12. Stephanie Oleary says

    Another fun way to get rid of end of summer veggies is to play vegetable baseball! My kids look forward to this every year! When I clean out the garden in the fall I put all the fruits & veggies in a pile & the kids line up to hit them with a bat. Only for the end of season leftovers of course πŸ™‚

  13. what a waste of food, dreadful idea just make some soup and EAT them

  14. I agree, why not donate to a local food bank rather than wasting food. Too many people in this world are going hungry.

  15. Passed on from a dear elderly friend from church who NEVER wasted anything since she lived through the Depression! Put all your green tomatoes in a box with newspaper separating them. Put a lid on the box and store in your dark cool garage or closet. Check periodically and pull out any ripe ones. It works!!! I had fresh tomatoes for months. Be careful not to forget to check them…seems as if the more ripe one’s left in the box tends to make the others ripen faster. I’ve also made homemade Pico de gallo and canned it. Made a great addition to soups and stews through out the winter. Enjoy!

  16. So I was reading and it says throw one at Kasey I was wondering cause that is my name then I saw the author!! My family and I were laughing for awhile!!!

  17. Rebecca Kronick says

    Love this article and the comments with exception to the waste of food comments. No doubt are they a good idea however sometimes they ripen too fast when you have hundreds all at the same time. And my local food bank will not accept fruit or vegetables from a unknown source. Cant just drop them off, and by the time you do all the proper steps, its too late. I’ve tried this. And I love the idea of saving a few once a year for the kids to have some fun, after all the video shows the tomato festival which is something Spain does yearly, I hardly doubt Kasey’s garden will affect world wide hunger, a few could be spared so the kiddies could have some fun in the sun and especially for those kids that helped their parents like me working in the garden. Looking forward to trying the sauce for my 100% homemade lasagna. Most of the recipes that come up has you adding canned tomatoes and sauce, not so homemade to me! Thanks for this great article.

  18. If you have a bunch of green tomatoes at the end of summer you can line some trays with newspaper and let them ripen slowly in the garage or basement(or other cool but not freezing dark place.) I had red fresh tomatoes well into January in TX. I’ve been dehydrating red/orange tomatoes and then freezing them so the break when chopping up in the food processor. I sprinkle them on eggs, pasta, quesadillas, etc.

  19. Great article to save for years to come!

  20. I love fried green tomatoes while I’m waiting for the other ones to get red. I can pizza sauce, salsa, vegetable juice, bbq sauce, stewed tomatoes, as well as tomato sauce. Love my kitchen aid mixer and tomato attachment. It separates the skin and seeds to a very good sauce.

  21. Fried green tomatoes do not taste like fried okra Fried okra is not gooey Everyone loves my okra

  22. Here it is the end of 2015 and I have two large baskets of medium-size tomatoes. I live in Central Texas where the weather is different almost every day. I planted late and I’m still harvesting! Can’t wait to try some of the featured recipes.

    • THAT is too cool, Sandra! Here is Wisconsin our 2015 harvest are all in jars on the shelf, or in the freezer. I’m dreaming about 2016’s garden…but you are still going! LOL! Good for you!

  23. The following are our top three uses for fresh, ripe, home-grown tomatoes: 1) BLTs with home grown lettuce of course (we suggest Buttercrunch) and Applewood smoked bacon, 2) Cream cheese and tomato sandwiches. On lightly toasted bread, put cream cheese on both sides. Then the fresh tomatoes between. Wonderful!!! 3) Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. Try them using Muenster cheese!

  24. I cut cherry tomatoes in half and added quartered thinly sliced cucumber and some chopped onion along with sliced almonds and dried cranberries. Very refreshing with a sandwich.

  25. I have a recipe for canning salsa and I also can chili sauce – great for hot dogs – burgers or to create a crusty glaze on top of meatloaf

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