What to do with an abundance of tomatoes

Local tomatoes are abundant in Oxford at the Farmers Market and MOON Co-op Grocery, and in many people’s backyards. What to do with all these tomatoes?

We might be one of the few households not growing our own tomatoes. We live in deep woods with minimal sunlight, but more importantly we have so many varieties of tomatoes available from the market, co-op, and friends, so why make the effort to grow just one or two varieties?

One of the pleasures of shopping for local tomatoes rather than growing a couple of varieties is the enormous variety one finds. Local tomatoes come in all sizes.

My annual census of tomatoes taken last week at the Oxford Farmers Market yielded 34 varieties this year. I’m sure I missed some.

The smallest this year are miniatures called currant tomatoes, so named because they are the size and color of currants. Currant tomatoes are a novelty, to be popped in your mouth on a whim rather than play a serious role in preparing a meal.

Cherry tomatoes are ubiquitous, in spheres of varying size and shades of red. They also seem to be preferred by the several friends who have shared their surplus with us.

Grape tomatoes, around the same size as cherry tomatoes, share genetics with plum tomatoes. They are often yellow rather than red and oval-shaped rather than spherical.

Full-size grownup tomatoes are also abundant. They tend to fall into two broad categories—hybrid and heirloom.

My somewhat scientific study suggests that the most popular hybrid tomato in the local farmers market is Celebrity. It’s a handsome “classic” looking tomato, not too firm and not too soft.

Heirloom tomatoes are popular for “feel good” reasons. Folks think they “should” buy heirlooms rather than recently invented hybrids that now dominate tomato production.

The heirlooms in the Oxford Farmers Market often carry interesting stories related to ancestors and immigrants. The heirloom seeds (and stories) are passed from one generation to the next.

The result is often a sweeter more full-flavored tomato compared with a hybrid. But heirlooms can be irregularly shaped, not always pretty, and sometimes quite soft. Growers tell me that shoppers talk heirloom but they buy hybrid.

One way to deal with the abundant harvest of tomatoes is to make sauce, but published recipes for making tomato sauce are often labor-intensive and wasteful. To obtain a thick sauce, tomatoes are supposed to be peeled, cored, and deseeded before cooking.

Cooking the entire tomato is less time-consuming and less wasteful, but the result can be watery and pallid tasting. I’ve found the perfect healthy and local solution to thicken and flavor homemade tomato sauce. Add pure mushroom powder made by Guided By Mushrooms.

Guided By Mushrooms is a Dayton mushroom farm started a few years ago by Audra Sparks, her husband David Sparks, and her brother Michael Goldstick. They supply MOON Co-op with unusual fresh mushrooms, as well as powders and tinctures.

MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. Visit the website at www.mooncoop.coop.

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