My mother offered us her chunky homemade tomato soup in times of crisis, celebration, or, if you were lucky enough to meet her late at night in the kitchen, a secret sharing of midnight memories. When she no longer tended her own garden, my mother's best days were spent in search of an honest roadside stand selling truly homegrown tomatoes.
Right about now, your garden is probably flush with ripening tomatoes. You may even feel burdened by too much of good thing. So I've assembled these delicious ideas to help you enjoy your tomato bonanza without trapping you in front of a hot stove.
Let's start with a review of how to handle tomatoes after you pick them:
To prevent damage, don't pile your tomatoes in an airless container—baskets are ideal. Store fruits no more than two deep to avoid bruising and rot.
Tomatoes, including the greenest stragglers of the season, don't ripen best in the sun. For best results, wrap underripe fruit lightly in newspaper and store stem end down in a dark, dry, cool place (60° to 70°F). Check often.
Tomatoes taste best at room temperature. But if you are not able to eat them within a day or so after picking, you can refrigerate them for up to 5 days. There is a cost in flavor with any refrigeration, but allowing them to return to room temperature before eating affords some redemption.
To retain the most flavor from ripe fruit you can't use within a day or two, process it into fresh (uncooked) sauce or salsa. Either keeps for 7 to 10 days in the fridge; for best flavor, serve them at room temperature or warmer.
Puree and freeze extras for later use in sauces and soups. Easier still, freeze whole tomatoes, unpeeled, one or two to a freezer bag. They peel easily when defrosted and can then be passed through a tomato press or food processor.