by Buck Reed
Too Many Tomatoes
If you are an amateur gardener, you know the joy of planting and tending to a plant that will provide you with something to eat. Just the idea that you tilled the soil and tended the plant yourself makes the fruits and vegetables from your garden taste so much better than anything you can buy in the store. However, the two words that will haunt you will happen if you do this long enough: bumper crop (an unusually abundant harvest from a particular crop). Sometimes, the gods smile down on you, the planets align, and your hard work yields far more of something from your garden that you find just too overwhelming a task to consume it all. That’s when you need to exercise your cooking muscles and expand that creative mind to use up all of what you planted in your garden, which I believe this year—as in most years—is tomatoes. Tomatoes are the most popular and number one grown vegetable in the world.
So, what to do with all those tomatoes that will appear this August. Let’s start with underripe tomatoes or what is referred to as green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes is everyone’s go-to, and even have a book, play, and movie by the same name. Just harvest a few green tomatoes from the vine, clean them, and slice them thick or thin. Then, dredge them in seasoned flour, butter, milk, and some kind of crumb. I like Zatarain’s, but any seasoned bread crumb or corn meal, or combination of the two will do. Pan fry them until crisp and the tomato is cooked through (cooking time depends on how thick you cut the tomato). Once done, it makes an excellent appetizer or side dish to any entrée. Also, use them on your next sandwich and you will see why it is a favorite.
Next, there are soups. Obviously, cream of tomato is at the top of the list, and it is easy enough to make. Just get the seasoning correct and you are home free. Also consider gazpacho, which is begging for all of your excess peppers, zucchini, squash, and herbs to pair with your tomatoes, resulting in a delicious, fresh cold soup for the hot days of August.
Salsa is another gardener’s favorite and can be served throughout the year in a variety of meals. Start with fresh salsa for your grilled fish or chicken recipes. Cooked salsas are also perfect for freezing, for when you need a reminder in the cold months of how good a horticulturist you are.
Now is the time to break out that dehydrator you got from your aunt as a wedding present and work its magic on your harvest. Slice the tomatoes and follow the manufacturer’s instructions till the tomatoes are dry but still flexible. Keep in a plastic bag and freeze until needed. These go great in salads, sauces, or just eat them like candy.
Okay, I did make a prediction about your crop this year. And even though it looks like I went out on a limb, you have to trust me. If you keep sticking plants in the dirt, you will get to a year you have way too much of something. You can try to give some of it away, and people will be grateful, but making good use of your produce is really what a good cook would do.