It’s tomato time! My kitchen is overflowing in tomatoes – yellow, red, round, huge, grape shaped, gold with black shoulders (the fantastic ‘Indigo Kumquat’), and so many more.
I always overplant tomatoes. Why? Because I LOVE TOMATOES!
By time I plant the varieties I teach with in seed starting workshops, plus favorite varieties from years past, and new varieties the breeders send me to test, along with those I trade with friends – well, that’s ALOT of tomato plants. This summer, I have at least 15 kinds of tomatoes growing in my garden, and producing alot more than two people can eat fresh.
What to do?
There’s no such thing
as too many tomatoes
Most years, I wash, dry, and freeze surplus tomatoes whole in zip top bags. They last forever and they’re perfect for adding to stews, soups, even making shakshuka (if you haven’t eaten shakshuka, tell me in the comments below and I’ll post a recipe).
This year, however, I’m drying tomatoes.
Long ago I had a dehydrator, but its small capacity and loud fans drove me crazy. My convection oven dehydrates far better and is completely silent.
How to make tomato raisins
(or tomato crisps)
I tried a bunch of recipes to see how they worked. From them, I came up with what works best in my kitchen.
- 1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise, from the stem end to the bottom
- 2 cups of cocktail size tomatoes (roughly the size of ping pong balls) sliced horizontally into half-inch thick slices
- Olive or avocado oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic peeled and pressed, or powdered garlic to taste
Put the sliced tomatoes into a wide, shallow glass or ceramic bowl
Drizzle olive or avocado oil over the tomatoes
Add the garlic
Use a silicone spatula to GENTLY mix everything together. Your goal is to coat the tomatoes without breaking or damaging them
Set a cooling rack over a cookie sheet (you may need to set up several of these, depending on how many tomatoes you start with)
Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the cooling rack
Carefully arrange tomatoes in a single layer on top the parchment paper. Set grape or cherry tomatoes face-up – and the end cuts from the larger tomatoes face-up, too.
Sprinkle tomatoes with salt to taste
Place the cookie sheet in a cold oven and set the heat to 225 or 250 degrees convection bake. If your oven doesn’t have convection, the tomatoes will still dry, they’ll just take longer
Set the timer and check the tomatoes every hour
Most recipes say it takes two hours for tomatoes to reach raisin texture, but in my oven , they take four hours
This is truly the simplest and most foolproof way to dry tomatoes. One, day I put the tomatoes into the oven then wandered out to water the garden. SIX HOURS LATER, my husband came out to ask me why the oven was on. Oops! The tomatoes were dried to a crisp and really ugly, but they taste great!
Store raisin tomatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator
Store crisp tomatoes in an airtight container on a shelf
Add dried tomatoes to a charcuterie tray, nibble on them in place of chips, toss them in a salad, add them to an omelette… enjoy them any way you can think of!
Want to see how new tomato varieties are bred and developed? Watch The Story of Seeds, from breeding to eating, one of my favorite episode of my public TV show, A Growing Passion to see how this amazing process works and how so many wonderful new varieties appear on the market as seeds and seedlings.