14 Sep 2011
Fresh Local Tomatoes All Year Long
“Once you’ve tried fresh tomatoes, you’ll never go back,” Bing Wright tells me. A neighbor of mine in the Catskill Mountains, where frost in May and September is not unusual, Bing grows tomatoes by the bushel in a 20-by-30-foot vegetable patch. From that small garden, he can harvest and put aside enough tomatoes to enjoy all year long.
Preserving tomatoes for eating year-round is incredibly simple, he says: Plant any variety of tomatoes, whichever you like. When they are ripe (red and ready to fall from the vine), pick them, wash them, and cut them in half (removing any bad parts). Then press them using a Squeezo Strainer (made by Best Products), which traps the skin and the seeds; the puree passes through for you to use right away in a sauce, soup or salsa or to store for another day. No cooking is necessary.
Bing freezes the puree in quart-size containers, putting about three cups in each container, enough for a meal for a family of four. On average he puts aside about 40 containers, keeping his family in fresh tomatoes from September to May.
He’ll often make an uncooked sauce by mixing three cups of puree with olive oil and garlic to go on pasta or fish or in a chopped salad. Even a cooked sauce made from fresh ingredients takes only 20 minutes or so.
Green tomatoes won’t mature on the vine once cooler temperatures arrive. To ripen them, Bing suggests this pretty reliable technique: Lay the green tomatoes on a newspaper in a cool, dark place—basements are perfect. They’ll ripen within a week or so. Eat when ripe, or turn into puree for freezing. Simple!
Bing acknowledges his 50 plants may be more than the average person will want in a backyard garden. “I’m the tomato man,” he jokes, but adds, “When it’s your tomatoes, it’s special. There’s really nothing like it.”