TMKW: You say tomato, I say tomato: The secrets of great tomatoes

Photo by Donna Rovins ¨ A seasonal display at Weaver's Orchard in Morgantown of tomatoes with samples of locally produced mozzarella cheese.
Photo by Donna Rovins ¨ A seasonal display at Weaver's Orchard in Morgantown of tomatoes with samples of locally produced mozzarella cheese.

The first of my tomatoes are sitting on the kitchen table. Iím so excited!

I planted plum tomatoes with the intent of canning them but none have ripened yet. Instead, a very large volunteer beefsteak tomato plant and multiple volunteer cherry tomato plants have taken over the bean patch and seem intent on producing enough tomatoes to feed the entirety of Berks County. Or at least the entire squirrel population.

But I have plans for those tomatoes that donít involve filling squirrel bellies. There are so many wonderful ways to preserve the tomato harvest. Here are a few of my favorite.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The Italians have dried tomatoes on their roofs for centuries. During the hot summer months we can achieve the same sun-dried deliciousness.


Use ripe paste tomatoes such as Amish Paste or San Marzano. Five pounds of tomatoes will yield approximately two cups dried.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stem. Place cut side up on the tray being careful not to lose any juice. Sprinkle with salt, oregano, basil or thyme if desired.

In the sun: Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and cover with cheese cloth. Place in the full sun or on your car dash on a hot sunny day. Bring in if it rains or gets humid, and overnight. It will take about two days depending on how sunny it is.

In a dehydrator: Place on dehydrator trays and dry three to eight hours at 140 degrees depending on your dehydrator.

In the oven: Place the tomatoes on cake racks set on cookie sheets (so the air can circulate). Dry 10-20 hours at 150 degrees rotating trays periodically.

The tomatoes are done when they are deep red and leathery. They should be flexible like a raisin, not brittle. They should be completely dry and not tacky.

Store in the freezer in air tight containers (they will quickly absorb any moisture they come in contract with) or cover with olive oil and refrigerate.

Tomato Powder

Slice ripe tomatoes and dehydrate until crispy, 10-20 hours in a dehydrator. Grind into a powder in a blender or food processor. To reconstitute, add a few spoonfuls to a cup of boiling water. The flavor is incredibly strong and delicious!


Freezing tomatoes is simple and quick. You can chop or purťe fresh tomatoes and freeze in bags. Or make tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes and freeze. I donít recommend adding peppers to tomato sauce. They donít thaw so well.


Canning tomato juice, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa is also an excellent way to preserve tomatoes. Donít stray from your recipes. Canning requires a certain level of acid and precise cooking times. Try this delicious salsa:

Salsa Roja

8 lbs ripe tomatoes

2 lbs peppers - use sweet or hot to your taste

3 large or 4 medium onions

8 cloves garlic

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1-2 Tbs Mexican oregano

2 Tbs cumin

2 2/3 Tbs kosher salt

2-3 Tbs black pepper

1cup lime juice

1 cup apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Core tomatoes and cut in half. Peel and quarter onions. Peel garlic.

Place tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers on a tray. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove garlic after 15 minutes. Tomato and pepper skins should look blistered and charred.

Remove the pepper stems. Peel the tomatoes and peppers if desired. Place in a food processor and blend.

Put the blended tomatoes, spices, and liquids in a saucepan. Add up to one cup water if the salsa is too thick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a water bath 20 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for half pints. Turn off the burner and let the salsa sit in the canner for five minutes. Remove and let sit on the counter 24 hours before moving. Yield eight pints.