Tomatoes – Tall Tales and True


Six months ago I watched on wistfully as my Northern Hemisphere blogging friends struggled to bottle, preserve and freeze their abundance of tomatoes.  It was winter here, and although the ground is not covered with snow, it was far too cool to be thinking about growing tomatoes, let alone harvesting them.  I hoped that my turn would come, and sure enough, it has.

A couple of weeks ago I made tomato sauce and blogged about it here.

As well as the wild cherry tomatoes we are growing Roma tomatoes for the first time and they have been a runaway success.  The next tomato project I decided to try was tomato paste.  As usual, I found several recipes on the internet, compared them and then made it to fit my available ingredients and quantity of tomatoes.  The site which I referred to most is here.  You will see that I used much less oil than suggested.  Also, please remember not to mix up pounds and kilograms.  I used 5 kgs which is 11 pounds.2013-01-13 01These are 4kg of Roma tomatoes which I picked yesterday.

2013-01-13 02And another 1kg of cherry tomatoes which I had in the freezer.

2013-01-13 03I roughly chopped the Roma tomatoes.

5kg tomatoes, 125ml olive oil and 1 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt into the stockpot and simmer for about 10minutes.

2013-01-13 04Then it is time to put all of the liquid and tomatoes through a food mill.

2013-01-13 05All of the liquid and puree went into a large saucepan and the skins and seeds into a separate bowl to be discarded.

2013-01-13 06Simmer the liquid for 1 – 2 hours or until reduced and thickened.

2013-01-13 07Pour the thickened puree into shallow oven trays and bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes and then for another 30 minutes at 140C.

Check the mixture about every 15 minutes and be sure to stir any caramelised bits on the edge back into the middle of the puree.

Transfer the paste to hot, sterilised jars.  Be sure to tap the jars to remove any air bubbles as you pack it in.  Place the lids on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.  For your health and safety, please refer to more detailed instructions about hot water bath processing.

2013-01-13 08Remove the jars, allow to cool and check that the vacuum seal is intact before storing them.

2013-01-13 09This is an easy but somewhat time-consuming process.  It is a great way to be able to store a large quantity of tomatoes for later use.  5kg of tomatoes made these 6 small jars plus a couple of spoonfuls that I have in a container in the refrigerator which will be used in the next day or so.

The harvest continues.  Here are more that I picked today and there are still heaps more of the Roma tomatoes on the bushes.

2013-01-13 10Finally, here are the first 2 full-sized tomatoes that I have grown for several years with plenty more to come.  I cannot remember what variety they are.  They have some imperfections but those can easily be removed.

2013-01-13 11And one final photo for Mrs Thrift from Not Just Green Fingers who asked how we managed to garden in the heat we are having.  I live in an area of Australia where we have a more temperate climate due to the elevation and also a good rainfall.  In fact it is sometimes more than we need.  However, the last 6 months have been particularly dry and very hot for the past week.  The tomatoes and red peppers have coped well but with more hot weather forecast I decided to rig up some protection for them today.  The main covering is a large piece of shadecloth which came from my parents’ home.  It has timber frames at each end and eyelets in the corners so was very easy to attach to the star pickets at the corners of the fence.  The extra piece is an old curtain (very thin) which is covering the peppers.

2013-01-13 12Despite the heat we are still managing to produce some of our own food.  There are plenty of chillies, we also have figs and peaches.  The fruit are unfortunately attacked by fruit fly but I salvage what I can even if it is just one bite.  I am going to see if I can rescue enough peaches to perhaps preserve a bottle or two to enjoy in mid-winter.  The first cantaloupe was picked yesterday because the side that was touching the ground had started to rot.  It was a little early so not superbly full-flavoured but I diced it up and mixed with some locally grown pineapple was very enjoyable for breakfast.

Do you have anything growing in you garden at the moment?  How do you cope when you have a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable?

Look forward to hearing your comments.

16 thoughts on “Tomatoes – Tall Tales and True

  1. Love Roma tomatoes, the little ones are my favourite and cherry tomatoes in a salad are perfect as you don’t need to slice them up. Have you tried growing the yellow ones? They are very nice.
    We recently moved so have not had time to plant anything yet but my husband is busy getting all the garden beds built ready for a little cooler weather so he can start planting.
    There is nothing nicer than going out and picking a fresh ripe tomato and eating it!
    We always make our own tomato sauce and pasta sauce, they certainly taste heaps nicer than bought stuff.

    • I bet you are looking forward to getting your garden up and running again in the new house. The flavour of anything that is homegrown is far superior than commercially raised produce.

      I have not grown the yellow tomatoes, though I can remember my parents growing them when I was a child.

  2. Our tomatoes have done well this year (I hadn’t bought any for about 6 weeks) then the 47 deg heat came and went and left us with sun burnt, p0arched plants and tomatoes. Although I kept the water up we had one day of very hot wind and every where I go i see the effects of it. Corn has survived, as has capsicums, eggplants and peppers. Even the hardy mint has become dry and brittle. I have thought of doing the same as you with the shade cloth but I think it too late for this year – will be doing it next year. Starting to prepare beds for cooler weather planting now.

  3. 47C is enough to make anything curl up its toes. Even in the January heat it is nice to look forward and begin the planning for cool weather planting.

    I hope the weather is a bit kinder to you soon.

  4. My tomatoes and parsley are eaten by the possums and native rats, even if I put cages on my pots. Does the fence on your garden stop these creatures of the night?

    • The wildlife can be a real pest when it comes to gardening. Luckily, my parsley is not on the menu of the animals around here. The fence is to keep the chickens out as well as the dog who enjoys a freshly-dug bed. My challenge is pumpkins – native rats, I think and of course fruit fly attacking the soft fruits. Citrus are our most successful fruit trees but I never stop trying. Got to love a challenge!!

  5. I am sitting here in the middle of winter with 60F wishing it were over so I could start my garden again. I have big plans for expanding the amount of food I will grow myself this year, now that we came up with a way to keep the wildlife from eating all first. This is the time of year that I have trouble with variety in my diet of veggies and fruit because being spoiled by home grown I can not stand the taste of food that is found in the stores.

    • I am essentially quite a lazy cook so take as many shortcuts as possible. I have yet to find a recipe that can cop with the tomatoes frozen as is. First, I remove the stalks, rinse and drain in the colander then pop them straight into a bag in the freezer.

      Have you got tomatoes growing? If not, I find at this time of the year it is quite cost effective to buy a large quantity from a market or fruit stall. Sometimes, ‘cooking tomatoes’ are very cheap and they are perfect for these kind of recipes.

      • Yes we grow tomatoes every year and have always had a good crop of the cherry/grape varieties. I’ll give your idea a go and see how it works out 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for answering my question. I must say that the shade you have put up is a brilliant idea!

    I once had such a glut of small tomatoes and not enough time to do anything with them that I froze them washed but whole. Months later I made lovely tomatoe soup with them.

  7. You made that seem so easy. People tell me you can’t bottle in the tropics. Do you know of this? We can buy bottled produce in the supermarket so why can’t we bottle? I’m not sure, but it seems like a big daunting job for me….

  8. Thanks for visiting Fast, Cheap, and Good! I wanted to check out your tomato efforts, and I’m impressed — I’ve never made tomato paste before, but maybe I’ll try it this year if I have a bounty of tomatoes. As it is January, and winter in the northern hemisphere, it is my turn to read your blog and dream about gardening season!

  9. Regarding Fruit Flies, I heard recently that there is a liquid bait you can get and should place a bit away from the crop you hope to protect as it attracts the fruit flies to it, not to the fruit
    The rock melon going rotten where it is in contact with the ground, I believe I remember my dad putting a generous bed of hay/straw under the melon to raise it off the ground while it was developing and growing.

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