December 05, 2019
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What to do with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes

Sarah Walker Caron | BDN
Sarah Walker Caron | BDN
Cherry tomatoes thrived in columnist Sarah Walker Caron's garden this year.

Was it only a week ago that my fingers dug into the wet, warm soil, pulling the weeds out by the roots? Was it only a mere seven days since I wondered how many more quarts of tomatoes we’d harvest?

It was, on both counts.

But now the seasonal change is in full swing — it’s chilly, the growth of plants is slowing and soon I’ll have to break out of my denial and tuck my garden beds in for the winter.

When I dropped by my garden yesterday, on a cool, overcast morning, many of the tomatoes had fallen from the dying tomato plants. I harvested anything remotely near ripe, coming away with several more quarts.

After the even chillier temperatures of today, I doubt there will be anything more to harvest — at least from the tomatoes. I am awaiting a good hard frost before I pull our remaining carrots though. That sweetens them up.

Meanwhile, my second planting of shell peas didn’t produce any peas — despite growing rapidly and reaching for the sky. The broccoli is near its end of lifecycle and the cabbages, while there, haven’t been very good — some green pest really enjoyed them.

There’s a certain wistfulness I feel at the end of the harvest season — a sadness to see my days of dropping by the garden for a quick weeding, watering and harvest coming to an end. It’s almost time to start eating from the produce we’ve stored for the colder days.

Almost, but not quite. There’s still a few buckets of cherry tomatoes to eat, cook or save — or some combination of the three. All of our tomato plants, robust and tall, did well this season. But it’s the cherry tomatoes that exceeded expectations.

While the paste tomatoes only produced enough for a batch of pizza sauce and some spares, the cherry tomatoes have been snacked on, roasted and sliced into salads for a month. We have a cherry tomato sauce in the freezer for winter and I’ll make another batch soon.

It’s exactly what I wanted from this season.

Are you dealing with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes too? Here’s how to use cherry tomatoes so they can be enjoyed now — or later:

— Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – There are several ways to make roasted cherry tomatoes. A popular one is to toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at between 400 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit with herbs until they burst. Once cooled, these delightful tomatoes can be eaten alone, spooned onto bread or on top of salad with a good balsamic vinegar. For a saucier version, toss halved tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a covered casserole for about an hour. Toss with fresh sliced basil and enjoy. This version is particularly delicious on grilled chicken, roasted cod or halibut or tossed with pasta.

— Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes – Whole cherry tomatoes become a warm, about-to-burst treat when cooked in a skillet until they begin to char. Some salt, pepper and herbs round them out. Eat them hot from the skillet.

— Freezing Cherry Tomatoes – I just learned about this method of preserving tomatoes. Did you know you can freeze cherry tomatoes in a similar manner as you would grapes (just wash, dry and freeze on a cookie sheet before transferring to a container for storing). HGTV tells me that frozen cherry tomatoes aren’t good for salads but can be enjoyed in sauces, with meats and more.

— Grilled Cherry Tomatoes – This is a way to enjoy cherry tomatoes, though you probably won’t have any leftovers. In a foil packet, combine whole cherry tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Seal the foil packet and cook on indirect heat for 20 minutes or so. They are delightful hot from the grill, but also lovely finished with a drizzle of balsamic.

— Caprese Salad – It’s a classic. Fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and either fresh basil or pesto. Toss it together and dig in. A sprinkle of good salt and fresh pepper are always welcome too.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy cherry tomatoes?

 



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