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Today I will share the many benefits of freezing your tomato harvest. You may ask, why post this now, in the spring, instead of late summer, when the harvest is rolling in? Well, last week, it was finally time to make some room in my freezer, and I pulled out the remaining nine one gallon size zip lock bags of frozen tomatoes. This was only about half of my tomato harvest from last year. I pulled out the other half back in November. Using up my frozen tomatoes, I thought now would be as good a time as any, to share all the benefits, before it comes time to harvest the tomatoes, so that you will freeze some too! And maybe you will want to plant a few extra tomato plants! If so, check out my article on how to grow tomatoes from seed. Now let me tell you all the reasons why I freeze my tomatoes.
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The main reason is, I don’t have a lot of time to deal with the tomatoes at the time of year when most of them are harvested. SO MUCH goodness is coming out of the garden at the same time, it is very difficult to try and preserve it all at the same time! The last week of August and first week in September, is one of our busiest times here on the homestead. My kids have shown at fair for over a dozen years, and those two weeks are fair weeks. Throw in the start of school, and the weeks before fair prepping everything. I am lucky if I have time to actually harvest the tomatoes! This is the main reason why I freeze the tomatoes.
Before I move on to more reasons, let me tell you quickly HOW I freeze my tomatoes. I fill my clean and sanitized sink with cold water and a few large glugs of vinegar. I wipe off any big dirty areas, and then drop the tomatoes in the sink gently. Let them soak for a little bit, swish them around a time or two. The vinegar helps kill off any bacteria or mold that may be sitting on the tomatoes, so this is an important step. After washing, set them on a towel to dry. Meanwhile, grab a cutting board and a paring knife. Take each tomato and core it, and cut an X on the opposite end, and place in a zip lock freezer bag and put in the freezer! You can always add more tomatoes to the bag if it isn’t full next time you harvest some.
EASY PEELING! If you can any type of tomato product, you know the hassle of blanching and peeling tomatoes. It is long hot tedious work. Not with freezing them! Pull out a frozen tomato, run it under warm water, and the skin comes right off! So easy! This reason right here is why I will continue to freeze most of my tomatoes, even after our fair days are over. Which is sadly almost here…..sigh.
When you core them before freezing, start a zip lock bag that you keep all the cores in. Also keep it in the freezer. As you pull tomatoes out of the freezer and use them over time, if you peel them, add the tomato skins to the same bag with the cores. These goodies are then used to make sauce, with my frozen cherry tomatoes! YES! I even freeze my cherry tomatoes! I wash them the same, but don’t bother coring or peeling them. Then I will cook up a big batch of sauce using the frozen cherry tomatoes, and all the frozen saved cores and tomato skins. I use an immersion blender to blend it up. Then after I have cooked up this batch, I then run it through a chinois, which is a very fine food strainer. I like to call this my free batch of sauce, because it is made with a lot of the extras that folks usually won’t use. If this idea doesn’t appeal to you, save the skins anyway, and dehydrate them. Then grind them up for a wonderful tomato powder you can add to soups, stews and sauces.
Easy cooking! Making soup? Go grab a couple of frozen tomatoes instead of a can you bought at the store! Peel them real quick, drop them in the pot! Mash them up once they have defrosted in the broth, or use an immersion blender! Easy peasy! Want a quick pasta sauce for dinner? Same thing! Grab a bunch of frozen tomatoes, peel them real quick, add to pot with a little water, garlic, seasoning, other veggies, let simmer. Blend when done and walla! Pasta sauce with fresh home grown tomatoes in the WINTER!!!! Yum!
Do some serious canning in your down time. When it is winter, and not much is going on outside, and time seems slower……this is the time that I like to do some large batches of canning. It also doesn’t hurt that it helps heat up the house, which isn’t so cool in the heat of summer. Like last week, when I pulled out nine gallons of frozen tomatoes and whipped up a HUGE batch of tomato sauce. Then I canned 18 pints in one go in my pressure canner. I would much rather do this on a slow winter day, than in the summer when I would rather be outside working in the garden, or dealing with other produce that must be preserved at that time. Stay tuned for a post soon on how to can tomato sauce.
I have come back to edit this post, because I realized I forgot to include a MAJOR reason! If you are a person who makes a lot of tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, you know how long you have to boil down the sauce to get it nice and thick. Well. When you make sauce from frozen tomatoes, as they warm up and thaw, they emit all this “tomato water” that you can easily remove with a turkey baster! No need to boil it down at all! Just heat up frozen tomatoes, remove the “tomato water”, mash down the tomatoes and blend up with immersion blender! It doesn’t take all day this way!
Now you know the benefits of freezing your tomato harvest. Don’t get me wrong, I like them fresh best of all. I’ve been known to eat tomatoes like an apple right out in the garden while they are still warm from the sun. And that is the absolute BEST! But, even if you don’t grow a lot of them, or do big batches of canning, I hope you will see why it might be a good idea to freeze at least some of your tomatoes! Hmmmm….perhaps you should grow a few more tomato plants than what you were planning?!?!? 🙂