From Seed to Sauce: A Guide to Tomatoes

tomatoHomegrown tomatoes contain so much more flavor than any store-bought ones and, in just a few easy steps, you can be growing them in your own garden. Although you might find yourself at the end of the season with more tomatoes than you can get rid of, there are still great ways to get the most out of your harvest. Here is your guide to everything tomato—from A to Z (or, in this case, from seed to sauce).

PLANTINGtomatoes-300x225

Growing your own tomatoes is as rewarding as it is delicious. For a (nearly) guaranteed harvest, purchase your tomato plants from a local nursery. If you are a more experienced gardener, or believe you have a green thumb, you can try germinating and growing your plants from seeds.

However you choose to start your tomato plants, it is important to plant them in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and in a place where the plants have enough room to grow. (The amount of space needed will differ among varieties.) Water the plants consistently, so that the soil is always moist, but not saturated.

As the plants grow tall, you may need to tie the stems to a tomato basket to help support their growth. In about 70–80 days, you will be ready to harvest the delicious tomatoes!

PRESERVING

canned-300x225With a successful season, you will likely have more tomatoes than you can eat in a summer. Canning the extra harvest will allow you to enjoy them throughout the year.

Before preserving the tomatoes, you will need to peel them. Start by boiling a large pot of water.With a sharp knife, make an X at both the top and bottom of the tomatoes to allow for easy peeling.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil, blanch each of the tomatoes, leaving them in the water for only a minute. After you have transferred them to the cold water, you should be able to peel the skin away easily, starting at the X. Peel off all of the skin, remove the core, and dice the tomatoes into quarters.

Place the cut tomatoes into 32-ounce canning jars, and add water to fill the jars. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar into each jar and securely tighten the lids.

Seal the jars by boiling another large pot of water. Submerge each of the jars and allow them to cook for 45 minutes. Cool for a full 24 hours. Check each jar to make sure the lid does not pop up. Press down on the metal lid; if it makes a popping sound as you release, it is not sealed properly. It is very important that you seal the jars properly, and that you do not store or eat tomatoes from a jar whose lid “pops up.”

Now tuck the jars away in a room-temperature area until you are ready to cook with them!

SERVINGsauce-300x225

Making sauce is so simple when you have canned tomatoes on hand. The next time you are hosting dinner, impress your guests by making pasta sauce from scratch following this recipe:

Ingredients:
• 2 32-ounce jars of tomatoes
• 1 small carrot
• 1 medium onion, quartered
• 1 celery stalk, quartered
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ⅛ cup white cooking wine
• salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Roughly dice the canned tomatoes into smaller chunks.
  2. Using a food processor, roughly chop carrots, onions, and celery. Process according to your consistency preference.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Lower the heat, add the vegetable puree, and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, and allow it to cook for another minute or until fragrant.
  4. Turn up the heat slightly, and add the white cooking wine. Allow it to a simmer for about four to five minutes.
  5. Finally, add the tomatoes into the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer over a low heat. Partially cover the pot with the lid to avoid splattering, and allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season with salt and pepper according to your preference, and serve over spaghetti.

Once you master tomatoes from seed to sauce, why stop there? The possibilities are endless. I love tomatoes and love sharing recipes!