On my list of the Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up, I impulsively added tomatoes as #6. During the past few days I’ve been keeping an eye on the foods we most often eat, and sure enough, tomatoes are a big part of our diet. Sunday we dined on tacos and tostadas, both topped with salsa. The next night we gorged on take-out pizza with a delicious tomato sauce flavored with red wine. Ketchup is the life blood of my kids’ lunches, and some of my favorite soups are tomato based. It’s no wonder that I stock up on tomatoes and tomato products.
Reasons to stock up on tomatoes
One reason I’m glad to include tomatoes as a major part of my food storage is that they contain healthy doses of Vitamins A and C and are wonderfully low in calories. Tomatoes are a natural diuretic, being 90% water themselves, and can help flush toxins out of your body. On top of all that, they’ve been found to contain lycopene, an amazing element that combats cancer.
The peak season for growing your own tomatoes is in the glorious, hot days of summer, but they’re available at the market year round. If you can get your hands on a large number of fresh tomatoes, here are some options for you, other than letting them rot in your vegetable drawer!
Oven Dried Tomatoes
What a delicous way to preserve your tomatoes, and this couldn’t be simpler. Wash your tomatoes and slice them about 1/2″ thick. Toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil and place them on a baking rack. Bake at a very low temperature, 225 degrees, for at least 2-3 hours. You’ll know they’re done when they feel like soft leather and are chewy. For long-term storage, you can seal them in either canning jars using a jar sealer attachment and a Food Saver or in Food Saver bags. Since the dried tomatoes will still have a degree of moisture, I don’t recommend storing them for much longer than 3-6 months.
Again, wash and slice tomatoes, but this time, layer them on dehydrator trays. If you’re new to food dehydration, read this. Tomatoes will need a good 6-12 hours of dehydrating time, and when they’re finished, they’ll be crispy. Far more moisture is removed using this method than oven drying, so these crackly tomato slices will have a much longer shelf life. Use the canning jar/jar sealer method with a Food Saver. That is my preferred method for storing dehydrated tomato slices.
Homemade Tomato Powder
The first time I heard of tomato powder, I thought, “Huh?” It turns out that this is a great ingredient for adding tomato flavor and nutrients to soups, chiles, stews, salad dressings, and more, and it can be quickly rehydrated as tomato sauce. Add more powder for a thicker sauce.
Stored in the fridge, tomato powder will last indefinitely. To make your own, seed your tomato slices before dehydration or not. I leave the skins on and the seeds in. Place the slices on dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap and dry until very, very crispy. This will take several hours.
Once you have crispy tomato slices, break them into small pieces and turn them into powder using your food processer or blender. I use my Magic Bullet and get great results.
The Paranoid Dad’s Not-So-Secret Salsa Recipe
We love this fresh flavored salsa. You can add cilantro, if you like. I love cilantro, but Parnoid Dad says it tastes like dirt. Go figure.
In a saucepan over low heat, combine these ingredients until thoroughly heated:
3 T. oil
3 T. vinegar
3 t. salt
3 t. sugar or preferred sweetener, to taste
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Pour warmed liquid into a bowl and add 1 large can tomatoes (chopped or pureed), 1 chopped white onion, and chopped jalapenos to taste. I also add a handful of chopped cilantro. Add a nice big bag of tortilla chips, and dinner is served!
Yes, you can make delicious, homemade ketchup, seasoned just the way you like it! I’ve found that some store brands are too sugary, and the sugar free brand is quite pricey. This is the recipe I included in my mini-book, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, available as a free download!
Lisa’s Homemade Ketchup
6 oz. tomato paste
1/4 c. honey*, or to taste (I also sometimes use sweeteners when I want to cut down on carbs and calories.)
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. water
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
Whisk all these ingredients together in a medium size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30 minutes and allow to cool before pouring it into a container. We use squeeze bottles but you could also recycle old ketchup bottles for this use.
Home canned tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can, even for beginners. Other than learning how to make jelly and jam when I was a kid, canning tomatoes were the first food I ever officially canned. Since you use the simple water-bath method, there’s no need to calculate pressure or timing based on your elevation.
Here are simple instructions for canning your own tomatoes.
With all these options, it’s very, very easy to stock up on tomatoes in your food storage pantry. They’re versatile, delicious, and I’ll bet you and your family can’t go much longer than a week or two without eating something made from tomatoes!
This article updated on August 2, 2015.