Although my tomato garden started out pretty, it did not produce all summer. I heard similar comments from many of my backyard gardening friends. About two weeks ago, I cleaned up my 26 tomato plants and gave them one last chance to make fruit before pulling them. I picked every tomato in sight in various stages of ripeness.
At our next monthly Master Gardeners of Davidson County meeting, I asked our UT Extension Agent, David Cook, if he had an explanation. He said in long periods of heat and drought, tomatoes take longer to ripen. Additionally, he said the plants do not set new fruit because the heat coupled with high humidity cause the flowers to shrivel up and drop. He said he’s been wondering if it is time to rethink when we plant tomatoes locally. Perhaps later in June would work better since we have a long growing season. Coincidently, I learned my father-in-law planted his tomato beds on July 1st, and they were lush and producing when I saw them last week.
The first thing I did with the ripe portion of tomatoes I harvested was to make and freeze a few batches of @JudysChickens Marinara Sauce. Soon after, I had the pleasure of tasting Robin Verson’s slow-roasted tomatoes while attending an indigo dyeing workshop at Hill and Hollow Farm, in Kentucky. I’ve made oven-roasted tomatoes before, but their flavor wasn’t nearly as intense as these. These were like little flavor bombs.
I asked her how she prepared them. She wrote, “Cut off the tips of Roma tomatoes, then cut them in half. Place in baking pan and sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put a nice
amount of freshly pressed garlic on top of each half. Bake at 225 for many hours, usually half a day.” Thus began my days of slow-roasting tomatoes.
Slow Roasted Tomato Ingredients
4 pounds small tomatoes (I used 3# Roma and 1# cherry)
5 -6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic pepper (used only for cherry tomatoes)
I divided the tomatoes into cherry (Juliettes and Sungolds) and the larger tomatoes (Romas and Lemon Boys). I found that garlic doesn’t stick well to whole cherry tomatoes, so I used garlic pepper for them.
Preheat oven to 225º
Line two 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
For the pound of cherry tomatoes: mix tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
For the three pounds of Romas and Lemon Boys: cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with your index finger. Mix olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl to moisten the garlic. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the olive oil and garlic over the tomato halves.
Slow cook tomatoes for 4-5 hours. The cherry tomatoes were ready about 30″ before the Romas.
We call the cherry tomatoes “poppers.” They are fun to eat individually or to throw in sauces, salads, and vegetable dishes for a burst of flavor.
The roasted Romas are good to eat as an appetizer, a side dish, or as a mix-in for foods like hamburgers, vegetable dishes, and even over pasta. They are especially good smushed on bruschetta, or on crostinis, as we shall see. They will last in a covered dish for about a week in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen.
Yield: 18 Crostini
½ recipe of slow roasted tomatoes (see above)
4 2-ounce balls of burrata cheese
a few leaves of basil, minced
Cracked sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400º
Slice a baguette into ½-inch slices. Lightly brush each with olive oil. Place slices on a sheet pan and toast for about 7-8 minutes.
Slice the burrata and place some on each slice of bread.
Top with one roasted tomato half.
Grind a little sea salt and pepper over each crostini. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Drizzle each with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Arrange crostini on a serving platter.
If you are looking for other ways to cook tomatoes check out Tomatoes! on the MENU page.
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