With the tomato season reaching its peak, it's the perfect opportunity to stock up on fresh, juicy tomatoes at unbeatable prices.
The tomato season here kicks off in early spring and can continue until late autumn, giving our growers a generous window to work their magic to provide us with this versatile fruit.
Tomatoes are grown both outdoors and undercover in New Zealand. When the weather's on our side tomatoes thrive, soaking up the sun. This outdoor approach is especially popular in regions with extended warm summers. In the winter time, the controlled environment of the greenhouse is the key to growing them, but the extra energy and care required to maintain optimal growing conditions contributes to the higher price tag for out-of-season tomatoes.
Right now is a dream come true for anyone who loves tomatoes. Load up on these radiant, sun-drenched gems to take full advantage of their current abundance and wallet-friendly cost.
Getting into the kitchen to cook and preserve tomatoes during this peak season is a smart move. It's a way to capture and keep the vibrant flavours of summer, ensuring you can savour them long after the seasons change. Whether you're whipping up rich, homemade sauces, crafting sweet and tangy jams, or simply freezing tomatoes for future use, now is the time to act. By preserving tomatoes at their seasonal best, you're essentially bottling up the warm essence of summer, ready to be enjoyed even on the coldest, shortest days of winter.
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
🍅 Fresh Tomato Sauce: Cook down the tomatoes with herbs like basil, oregano, and garlic to create a simple yet flavourful tomato sauce. This can be used for pasta, pizza, or as a base for other dishes. Make heaps and freeze for fuss-free dinners when you're in a hurry.
🍅Roast: Roasting tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt brings out their sweetness and flavour. Use them in salads, as a side dish, or make sauce as above but with pre-roasted tomatoes.
🍅 Bruschetta: Mix diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Serve on toasted slices of baguette or sourdough for a classic appetiser.
🍅 Dried Tomatoes: Your air fryer may have a dehydrate setting, or just use your oven. See how to here.
These are great in pasta, on pizzas, or as a snack.
I did these last week in the air fryer on dehydrate for about 6 hours. Just slice, throw them in and forget! They are now tucked away in the freezer for future use.
🍅 Caprese Salad: A classic tomato salad, Caprese, is a simple yet elegant dish that hails from Italy, specifically from the island of Capri. This classic salad is a celebration of fresh, quality ingredients - ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil - and a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The ingredients are arranged in alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella and then garnished with the basil.
As with any dish, the end result is only as good as the quality of the components: the tomatoes should be ripe and flavourful, the mozzarella fresh and soft, and the basil vibrant and aromatic.
🍅 Stuffed Tomatoes: Hollow out tomatoes and fill them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs, then bake. You could also use a rice, cous cous or quinoa filling for a heartier option.
🍅 Gazpacho: Make a no-cook cold soup with pureed tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, onions, and garlic. Serve chilled for a refreshing summer dish. Find a recipe from the wonderful RecipeTinEats here.
🍅Chutney: Make a tomato chutney that can accompany meats, cheese platters, or serve as a delicious spread.
🍅Freeze: You can freeze tomatoes by placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Core if desired, cut into halves or quarters and freeze until solid. It's important to note that freezing will change the texture of the tomatoes; they will be mushy when thawed and are best used in cooked dishes like sauces, soups, and stews.
I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to preserve the taste of summer. Happy cooking!