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Sun Dried Tomatoes

drying tomatoes

Over 40ºC (104ºF) again yesterday, and it looks like it will get up there again today.  The Climate Change Commission is warning that we’d better get used to it. Climate change doesn’t cause heat waves like this – it just puts bullets in another couple of  chambers for the game of Russian Roulette we’re playing.

But meanwhile, if life gives you lemons a good permaculturist makes lemonade. So if life gives you a heat wave, a good permaculturist forgets making tomato passata and puts all that lovely solar energy to work making sun dried tomatoes instead.

Principe Borghese are like a mini-Roma, a bit larger than a cherry tomato and football shaped.  They’re nicely acid-sweet and brilliant for drying.  They’re indeterminate, which means they just keep growing and fruit all summer on a tall climbing, prolific bush.   They’re very fruit fly resistant and hardy.   I have a number of methods for drying them, but my favourite for ease is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt,  thread them on satay sticks and lay the sticks across a pie dish, then put the dish on the dashboard of the car, parked to face north, windows up.  In this weather they dry to leather in two days.

This method fits nicely with my preferred gardening style of successional planting to give small yields of a big variety over a long time. It means I can put a couple of dishes out to dry each morning before I dash off to work, and tomatoes for winter happen without needing a huge quantity of tomatoes ripe at once, or a swag of time, or any fuel, or any special equipment.

I put a clean glass jar, lid on, on the dashboard at the same time.  The sun sterilizes it. I can then pack the dried tomatoes into it, cover with olive oil, and they will last on the shelf without refrigeration all year.  I am very lucky to live in a climate where I can get fresh tomatoes most of the year so long as I start them off in the shadehouse, rotate the beds, and don’t try to plant too many at once.  But from July to October it’s usually just enough for eating fresh, not for cooking.  A dozen jars of sun-dried tomatoes gets me very happily through that patch.

sun dried tomatoes in olive oil[relatedPosts]

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • farmer_liz January 19, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Great idea for actually using the heat to our benefit. Not that my tomatoes are doing very well in the heat…. but I have been air drying lots of herbs.

  • Frogdancer January 19, 2013, 7:20 pm

    Sheer brilliance!

  • Dani January 20, 2013, 2:43 am

    I popped excess tomatoes into my solar oven last year, and, leaving the lid ajar just a fraction, to allow any moisture to escape and prevent unwelcome fruit flies from venturing inside, they dried during the day.

    I agree, they WERE very useful last winter :)

    I stored mine in the fridge – I have read too many warnings about not refrigerating anything preserved in oil.

    But for me the best thing is that home produced sundried tomatoes do NOT contain anything but tomato – who needs the added chemicals? :)

  • Tracey January 20, 2013, 8:30 am

    Love the car method of drying! Down here in southern Victoria, we’ve hot plants covered in tomatoes, but none ripening just yet. We also don’t get to grow them through winter :(. I’m planning lots of passata, but since we love sundried tomatoes too, I’m going to give this method a go just as soon as I have buckets of ripe ones.

  • JR January 20, 2013, 10:49 am

    Thanks for the great idea of sundried tomatoes done in the car!! I have way too many tomatoes, the freezer is full of passata already, plus frozen whole tomatoes. I was running out of ideas on how to use them as they are producing about half a bucket every two days!! Will definitely be trying your sundried tomatoes now :-)

  • narf7 January 20, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Exactly what I like to hear…optimism in the face of heat! I got tired of feeling helpless, scared, depressed and unable to motivate myself because “what the heck…it’s only going to get worse!” and stopped listening to the doom and gloom and just started living positively and as sustainably as possible. We all need to hear climate change messages but there is a fine line between delivering a vital message and people switching off because they are incredibly tired of doom and gloom…we run the risk of people doing just that and no-one listening to the message. I choose to lead by example and you are a good example of someone doing the same :). Cheers for the sundried tomato reminder…once mine ripen I am going to dry some along with other veggies we grew :)

  • Kristy @SeeMyFootprints January 21, 2013, 10:53 am

    I too am curious about doing them in oil but chicken out each time as I don’t feel I”m ‘up on the know’ enough for jarred preserving. I’d like to be though so it’s on the ‘one day’ list and for now I use the freezer.

    We managed to get tomatoes now through two winters (I didn’t realise until later) and it was a bit of a shock to come out the other end when the tomatoes finally finished, and have to BUY tomato lol

    the sundried ones look delicious! :)

  • Linda January 21, 2013, 11:07 am

    Hi Kristy, my basic rule for storing under oil is that the thing should be safe to store not under oil. You can (and I have) kept sundried tomatoes just in a sterile jar on the shelf. Because they are dry and acid, they don’t go off. They’re just softer and easier to use in oil, and the tomato infused oil is good afterwards. High acid foods are safer to preserve, because they don’t get botulism, and you can tell if they go off – they go mildewy or alcoholic. Low acid foods are much more tricky.

  • Lorelle January 11, 2016, 9:33 pm

    Hiya- just wanted to raise the issue of toxins in your car that would leech into the tomatoes. You know when you get into a hot car and it stinks – its the formaldehyde and other nasties leeching out in the heat. Cars are full of plastics, fire retardants, water proofing and others that leech out in heat. I think that these may affect your precious produce adversely. Please have a look at books co-written by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith on the subject. I adore your posts but couldn’t stay silent any longer when I think you may be ingesting toxic chemicals.

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