tomato on weathered wood

It’s Tomato Harvest Time

This post is the beginning of short series about harvesting our home grown tomatoes – and what to do with them all and some details about tomato nutrition.

We have closed up our island cottage for the winter, and we are back home in Southern Ontario. I uprooted a few of our cottage garden tomato plants (and the basil) and brought them south to finish growing and ripening before we have a frost. These plants will sit on my front porch – but my Southern Ontario tomato plants have a lot of juicy red tomatoes, and also MANY more green ones.

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Last year I planted too many tomatoes (all from seed), and this year I planted more sparingly – but there are still ALOT. What to do with all those tomatoes? Tomato sandwiches? Give them to the neighbours and relatives? OR – Put them up!

Messy homegrown tomato plants
Tomato Plant in October

Putting Up Tomatoes

Put up with the neighbours and relatives? No, no, no… Put up the tomatoes…….

“Putting Up” is an old fashioned term for home canning or preserving our harvest It’s also one of my favorite hobbies! Over the years, I’ve made a lot of preserves – and I am still learning to make things that will actually get consumed. There are a lot of fancy recipes out there that end up being “gifted” – but do the recipients actually eat them or want them? It’s something to think about and improve upon.

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Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling (Better Homes and Gardens Crafts)

Each year, I harvest my tomatoes as they ripen – but this year, having just returned home as the weather is approaching “frost”, I am bringing in everything – all at once and having a “tomato week”. The kitchen is a mess, but I’m happy. My first project will be making as much tomato pasta sauce as possible for the freezer. Along with our frozen batches of bolognese sauce – we can never have enough of this on hand. (I will repost the Herb Garden Blender Spaghetti Sauce recipe tomorrow when it’s finished!).

Tomato harvest in a metal colander
Tomato Harvest

In terms of home canning – I will be making and reposting Zesty Chili Sauce, Bruschetta Preserves, Salsa – and the finale – Green Tomato Relish. (The goal is one recipe a day!)

Ripen Green Tomatoes

In the meantime, there are so many green tomatoes in my kitchen. I am attempting to ripen them by placing them together with bananas in a paper bag. Ripe bananas release ethylene gas naturally which will help the tomatoes to ripen – HOPEFULLY!

Green tomatoes still on the vine in October
Green Tomatoes still on the vine in October

What kind of tomatoes do you grow?

I love tomatoes, and use them in everything.  My homegrown combination of beefsteak, roma and cherry tomatoes taste mysteriously sweeter than store or market bought, and make me wonder what’s in my garden soil.  When I buy my tomato seeds in the winter – I buy a combination of varieties – beefsteak for juicy fresh tomatoes, roma for sauces, and cherry tomatoes to salads and pizza toppings – but in the end – this time of year – I put whatever type of tomato I have left into my preserve pot – for sauce, salsa, relish – whatever I have goes in the pot.

Tomato Nutrition

Tomatoes provide us with vitamin A, B6, C, E, K, biotin, molybdenum, copper, potassium, manganese, fiber, folate, niacin, phosphorus.  What is unique about tomatoes is that they are an important source of lycopene. Lycopene is an anti-oxidant which is supposed to reduce our risk for heart disease and cancer.  A negative side of tomatoes, is that they are acidic and if acid reflux is an issue for you, it’s best to avoid or reduce your consumption.

Tomatoes and Solanine

Tomato plants are a member of the nightshade family, and contain the chemical solanine.  Solanine has been said to be an inflammatory chemical, and has been thought to cause arthritis.  Solanine is a nerve poison for insects, which seems to keep the bugs and rabbits from eating my garden tomatoes. (It’s the only vegetable in my garden that survives the rabbits).  It seems that people can have a sensitivity to solanine in tomatoes, which can trigger arthritis pain, but apparently not all of us are sensitive in this way.  You might consider removing all nightshade foods from your diet for a few weeks to see if you feel less arthritis pain, without them.

tomato on weathered wood
Photo by monicore on Pexels.com

The jury is still out on tomatoes, with some information that solanine can increase not only arthritis inflammation, but also cancer and heart disease risk.  On the other hand lycopene has been shown to protect against, lung, stomach, colon, oral, breast and cervical cancers and to improve outcomes for those with prostate cancer.

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Cooking Tomatoes

I will be cooking my harvest of tomatoes into sauces and preserves.  Processing tomatoes at high temperatures and cooking them with olive oil, has been shown to reduce many of the nutrients, – but the good news is that cooking increases the levels of lycopene that our bodies can absorb.  So – my copious quantities of harvested garden tomatoes, chopped with onion or pureed with basil and spices boiled up in various recipes – are still superfoods – AND – they are a bit of summer on the coldest day of the year here.

Sliced tomatoes
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Anyway – I’m off to make my sauce before the fruit flies take over my kitchen! What do you do with your tomato harvest?

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6 thoughts on “It’s Tomato Harvest Time

  1. I’m so glad you mentioned tomato sandwiches because I’d forgotten all about them! Also, looking forward to trying the bolognese recipe. I don’t grow anything, but after reading so many interesting things about tomatoes, I might go for it. 🙂

  2. I’ll look for your recipes with interest, since I also have a tomato glut. Our first freeze is coming up and I’ll have to pick them all and put them up as they ripen.

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