Surviving the Tomato Glut

tomatoes, basil and pepper

First, the disclaimer: I don’t know that you can have too many tomato plants. We officially have 12 this year, but there are also a few volunteers, including one that came up in the newest bed that is pretty soil-free, being heavily filled with peat moss. (I credit the compost at the bottom.) And I’m worried they will run out fairly soon because we’ve got some kind of blight (I think) that is turning the leaves brown from the bottom of the plant up, and I don’t recall seeing a lot of new flower for the larger tomatoes.

So how to cope with too many to eat?

First, plant a variety so you have cherry tomatoes you can eat like candy (Sungolds are awesome), slicers, some oranges or other colors to play off the red ones in your salad.

And there here’s what we’ve been doing with ours (beyond salads… because I have to say, that New York Times food section article the other week on this subject was so unimaginative):

Pasta with red and gold cherry tomatoes, riffed from a cookbook called Fresh From the Farmers’ Market

Gazpacho, paired with our lemon basil and a garden cuke. We like the Alton Brown version; Worcestershire sauce is a surprise ingredient.

My mother’s rice-stuffed tomatoes. It’s really simple, and I don’t follow much of a recipe. A perfect use for the seven Rutgers tomatoes I picked from the garden this evening, with some basil and a cayenne pepper also from the garden. Here’s how to do it:

Cut off the top and set it aside. Then scoop out all the pulp from the tomato. You don’t have to be particularly neat about this. Dump that into a bowl. Repeat until you are done with all the tomatoes. Tomatoes and lids go in an oven-proof baking dish.

Then dump the pulp into a food processor. Add seasonings — in my case, the basil, the pepper and some salt. (I forgot garlic. And season heavily — I am a notorious underseasoner.) Puree it and dump it back into the bowl. Fish out any lumps and puree it again.

Then mix in rice, keeping in mind the proportion of rice to liquid that you use when you are cooking rice on the stove. Tonight I decided to experiment with cracked wheat instead and poured in too much. So I pureed some extra tomatoes to add liquid.

I then filled each hollow tomato most of the way, then put the lid back on. I covered the entire thing with foil and put it in a 350-degree oven. I remember potatoes nestled around the tomatoes from my childhood, and the last time I made this, the Brit had left a garden potato on the counter. This time I sliced up three, but I’m a little worried about whether they’ll bake through. On the other hand, it’s hard to overcook this dish. You leave it in the oven until the rice has cooked, or even longer, say, an hour, or even longer as the oven cools. I have never burned this! It’s a wonderful flavorful mix of rice and tomatoes that also works well for a brown-bag lunch the next day.

Ready for the oven

Still too many tomatoes? Can them, make sauce or this yummy chutney. Then you can enjoy them in the middle of the winter.

And if that’s too much work, I’ve heard some people will just freeze the tomatoes whole and use them when cooking.