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Crop Spot: Tomatoes

It’s tomato season and tomatoes are everywhere! There are dozens of varieties of tomatoes, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors—even purple! Easy to grow and even easier to eat in a variety of different ways, Tomato season is certainly something to celebrate!

In the Garden

When growing tomatoes, you must figure out what type of tomatoes you want. Some of the most popular varieties are the smaller cherry tomatoes, medium-sized Roma tomatoes, or the big juicy Beefsteak tomatoes perfect for salsas. There’s also a broad spectrum and associated cultural history among Heirloom tomato varietals. Depending on your garden size, you’ll also want to choose between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants. Indeterminate tomato plants grow continuously all season long and can reach 10 feet tall! Determinate tomato plants stop growing at a certain point, and can thrive in smaller gardens or even in pots.

If you’re growing your tomatoes from seed in Michigan, you’ll want to start them inside six to eight weeks before moving them outside. It’s typically safe to plant them outside in late May or early June, but most tomatoes grow best in warmer temperatures. They will really begin to thrive when it’s consistently over 70 degrees.

Tomato plants will continue to flower and produce fruit throughout the growing season, but peak in August and September.

In your Medicine Cabinet

Tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to increased cardiovascular health. Consuming tomatoes is also a great way to get vitamins C and K, potassium and folate. One medium-sized tomato can provide about a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs!

In the Kitchen

Even for tomato lovers, the peak of tomato season can feel a little overwhelming. What to do with all the tomatoes?! Luckily, tomatoes are a very versatile food and can be used in tons of recipes!

Recipes for Now

• Most simply, throw fresh tomatoes in pasta, on top of a salad, in soups, or slice them into a sandwich.
• Tomatoes are fantastic for making your own salsa or pico de gallo.
• A tomato tart is a lovely way to use some tomatoes
• Try out the traditional North African dish shakshuka, using fresh tomatoes! The dish is also popular in the Middle East, especially in Israel, where it’s eaten for breakfast. Here’s an Israeli version of shakshuka. 
• Tomato confit is a great way to use up lots of tomatoes. Serve confit spooned onto crostini, added to a grain or bean for a side dish, or added into a frittata. Find a recipe for tomato confit here.

Additionally, tomatoes can be preserved for later use in a variety of ways, too, which is fantastic when you’re craving tomatoes in the cold winter months!

Recipes for Later

• You can use your oven or a food dehydrator to make oven-dried tomatoes to add to pastas, put on pizzas, or add into curries.
• You can make tomato sauce and freeze it for use for up to three months after first making it. Here’s an easy recipe for a basic tomato sauce.
• Although it is time consuming, canning tomatoes is a wonderful way to preserve their flavor and canned tomatoes can be used in a variety of recipes all year long. Here’s a basic recipe for canning tomatoes.  

Tomatoes may seem limitless this time of year, but the good news is that ways to use them are, too! What’s your favorite way to use up your tomatoes?

Elizabeth Pearce is TLD’s Operations Assistant. She lives in southeast Michigan, where her tomato plants have taken over her garden! Contact her at elizabeth@localdifference.org

Find more Crop Spots here.

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