what in the world are we going to do with all of these cherry tomatoes?! i am usually uttering that statement to mary every single year as july turns into august.
one day, we are simply excited to have our first little cherry tomato ripening on the plant. and within a week or two, even more happy to be plucking 3 or 4 every day for fresh eating or salads.
and then it happens. the overwhelming onslaught of cherry tomatoes begins. and before we know it, there is no possible way to consume the hundreds and hundreds coming from the plant. with, i might add, no end in sight!
although the high production levels of our zucchini plants certainly test both our recipe creativity and our giving away to friends and family skills, it always seems to be our cherry tomato plants that leave us wondering what we will ever do with an ever-mounting harvest.
finding ways to use a massive harvest
but the cherry tomato dilemma was really put to the test a few years back. that fateful year, we accidentally planted 4 massive heirloom cherry tomato plants in our garden. that was in addition to the two black cherry plants we normally plant each season.
unfortunately, it seems that one of us that year did not label our seedlings well. i say one of us because i don’t want to specifically call myself out by name. but let’s just say we were shocked to have so many cherry tomato plants growing in our garden at once.
seeing how just two plants can usually have us scrambling, you can imagine how many cherry tomatoes we ended up with. and so it was that we started finding a few extra ways to process or use them all before they went bad.
with that in mind – here are 6 of our favorite ways to handle an overabundance of cherry tomatoes:
6 great ways to use cherry tomatoes
#1 tomato juice
and finally, nothing can use up a big batch of cherry tomatoes like making homemade tomato juice! juice is great to have on hand for drinking, or for all kinds of dishes too. even better, you can can it to have all winter long.
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to make juice – simply wash your tomatoes and put them in a large stockpot. cook them down until heated through. no need to add extra liquid, as the cherry tomatoes will begin to break down and produce their own liquid.
bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. put through a tomato strainer and return the liquid to the pot. bring to a boil and simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. cool and freeze or process for canning. see how to can tomato juice.
#2 freeze them whole
one of the best ways to preserve a cherry tomatoes is to simply freeze them whole.
one thing we have always found with cherry tomatoes is that once the season ends, we begin missing them quickly. especially when it comes to having a them so handy for salads or fresh eating. but freezing them is quick and easy, and keeps them at the ready.
just wash, pull off the stem, and flash freeze them on a baking sheet. once they are frozen, place them in a freezer safe bag, making sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible.
this is where our food saver and food saver bags come in handy! not only are they quick and easy to use, they do a great job of sealing out the air for long storage life.
when you are ready to use them, just pull them out of the freezer. the cherry tomatoes will be softer than if you were using fresh, but still have intense flavor. they are also great for recipes, soups, sauces and casseroles.
#3 roast them
talk about a delicious side dish that is easy to make! roasted cherry tomatoes are incredibly full of intense flavor. and they go well with so many other vegetables and meats.
although you don’t have to cut them in half, we find that they roast quicker and taste even better when you do. by splitting them first, the roasting process really gets into the meat of the fruit.
although you can cut them in half one by one, you can also use the plate method for mass cutting. simply place several on a cutting board. next, place the bottom of a plate on top to hold them steady. to cut, just run a serrated knife right through the middle. just like that, you have perfect tomato halves!
to roast, lay your cherry tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet with the cut side up. drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add a pinch of salt and desired seasonings over the top of your tomatoes.
roast uncovered at 400 degrees f for approximately 20-30 minutes. serve on top of your favorite dish, or cool and freeze for later use.
#4 – 5 ingredient quick & easy tomato sauce
with their sugary sweet flavor, cherry tomatoes make an incredible tomato sauce. and this simple 5 ingredient sauce is just the ticket for using up quite a few at once time.
heat 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. add 4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic and heat until fragrant and softened (about 2 minutes).
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add 4 cups of cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook. as they begin to burst, continue to smash them down while you stir. continue to cook and smash until the desired consistency has been reached.
to finish, add in 1 cup of chopped basil and ground black pepper to taste. this sauce is perfect for serving over pasta right away, or freeze it to use all winter long.
#5 – “sun dried” tomatoes
sun dried tomatoes are one of the best ways to preserve your cherry tomatoes for later use. if you live in a dry, sunny area, you can place cherry tomato halves on baking sheets in the sun, and simply let them dry out naturally.
for those don’t live in this type of climate, you can dry your tomatoes by either using your oven or a dehydrator. we use a cuisinart food dehydrator in our kitchen.
wash your tomatoes and cut them in half and place them into a bowl. drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and spices and gently toss. place tomatoes cut side up onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 200 degrees f for 4-8 hours.
if using a dehydrator, set temperature to 140 degrees and process until the tomatoes are dry (4-8 hours). store in an airtight container in the freezer or a cool dry place.
#6 – tomato salads
nothing says summer like fresh salads. and nothing uses up more tomatoes quickly than a tomato salad! our favorite go-to’s are cucumber, onion and tomato salad, and tomato & mozzarella salad.
not only are both quick and easy to make, they are perfect for using up large amounts of ultra sweet cherry tomatoes. the intense flavor of the cherry tomato is actually the perfect choice for both recipes!
so there you have it – 6 great ways to use up a big tomato cherry harvest. here is to a great garden season – happy gardening! jim and mary
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