There's nothing quite like growing your own produce, but if you've been successful you will eventually end up with too much. There are only so many friends willing to take your excess tomatoes. And at the end of the growing season, even though the plant is dying off, there are still plenty of green tomatoes left on the plants. What to do?
Picking Green Tomatoes
If your plants start to die off at the end of the growing season but you still have plenty of fruit left on them, simply pick them off.
You now have a choice: you can either use these to collect seed ready for next year's crop, or you can ripen them on a sunny window sill and use them up (more on that later).
Collecting Seed from Tomatoes
To propagate tomatoes from seed, simply scoop out the seeds into a glass jar. Don't worry if a bit of pulp comes along with it. Screw on the lid and place on a sunny window sill for a few days until a fungus forms on top. This fungus will eat through the gelatinous coating on the seeds.
Once you can see the fungus working (around 3 days) transfer the contents of your jar to another glass jar and fill to about a third full with warm water. Anything that floats on top is waste - scoop this out. You should now have healthy tomato seeds on the bottom of your jar. Add some more water and swish around to help clean the seeds, then strain through a sieve to collect the seeds.
Place on some paper towel to dry out completely (say 2 or 3 days) and then store in an airtight container until you are ready to plant the seeds.
Using Up Excess Tomatoes
OK, so you now have lots of ripe tomatoes. What to do with them?
You can make tomato relish, tomato chutney, de-seed them and squeeze for juice, but my absolute favourite thing to do is to make tomato sauce. Not ketchup type tomato sauce, but a beautiful tomato sauce you can use on pizzas (as a base), in pastas and lasagnes, in soups and moussakas. This sauce is so versatile, and can be successfully frozen in portions for several months.
Here's my own recipe:
Diane's Tasty Tomato Sauce
(Preparation Time: 5 min Cooking Time: 30 min)
60 grams of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic (or 3 garlic cloves, crushed)
1 kilo of ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter and olive oil in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. Cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and golden.
Chop the tomatoes finely (you can use a food processor). Add to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. For a really intense sauce, let the volume drop by 1/3rd.
Add the parmesan and stir to combine. If the colour is a little pale (depending what tomatoes you use) you can add a little tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Great with pasta and a little parmesan cheese, or use as a base for your pizza.
If you like a little more texture in your sauce, add chopped basil leaves, diced eggplant, de-seeded olives, sliced or chopped mushrooms and / or finely chopped capsicum after the onions are cooked. Make sure you cook these for a few more minutes to soften before adding the tomatoes.
Sauce will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week, or can be split into portions and frozen for several months, although mine never lasts that long!
Diane Ellis is a keen amateur gardener and shares her love of gardening on the website Seed Sow Grow. For more information visit http://www.seedsowgrow.com.au/.
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