5 Ways to Use Late-Season Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are like the Energizer Bunny of the tomato world. They start producing early, and just keep going – long after their larger siblings give up for the winter. But there are many ways to save and use late-season cherry tomatoes, before the frost finishes them off for another year!

America’s favorite backyard garden plant is the tomato. And the easiest tomatoes to grow are cherry tomatoes.

They mature quickly, so you can grow them even in a short season environment.

They don’t take up much space so you can grow them in a pot on the deck or balcony.

They come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors so you can grow a rainbow with just a few plants.

They are prolific so you will almost always have enough for a salad or snacks.

They are long lasting, so you will have ripe tomatoes in June, and still have ripe tomatoes in September or October – maybe even November if it’s a warm year.

They are also enticing. Each year I vow to plant fewer cherry tomato plants – yet it never happens. This year I planted at least one plant each of: small red cherry, black cherry, orange cherry, yellow cherry, medium green cherry, and a medium red cherry. Plus, I had a red grape cherry volunteer plant that had produced all season – smack dab in the middle of the blackberry patch. Let’s just say, I have had a lot of ripe cherry tomatoes over the past few months.

Winter is threatening early this year though – at least here in the Mid-Columbia region. So, I am busy harvesting, refusing to let Jack Frost have my late season tomatoes. Of course, a huge container of cherry tomatoes will only last so long – which means it’s time to get creative and either use or preserve them now! Just what can you do with an abundance of cherry tomatoes?

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Sweet cherry tomatoes, right off the vine, are delicious. Keep that flavor, if not the crunch, all year long by roasting them. Layer washed cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, salt, and herbs if desired, and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. After they cool, I package them in freezer containers and freeze to use later on pasta or soup. Find the complete directions on my site: Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.

Cherry Tomato Salad

Cherry tomato salad is perfect all season long. I serve it with grilled anything, with other cold salads in the summer, as a bright side dish with roasted vegetables and tofu, at picnics, for lunch – almost every day during the summer. It adds a pop of color to an otherwise monochromatic meal, and an acidy zing to the palate. The recipe changes with available ingredients and my mood, but always includes cherry tomatoes, good quality olive oil, and balsamic or red wine vinegar.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half – use a variety of colors if you have them. Add any or all of the following: mini fresh mozzarella balls, cubed Feta cheese, capers, Kalamata olives, green or black olives, chopped cucumber, fresh basil or other herbs, crushed red pepper, pine nuts or chopped walnuts. Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and good quality vinegar.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

It may seem to be a lot of work – cutting cups of cherry tomatoes in half. But dehydrating cherry tomatoes is well worth the time. The drying process intensifies the sweet tomato flavor, and the end result is better than any dried tomato product you can purchase at the store. Dry cherry tomatoes as much or little as you like; crispy or soft and chewy. Don’t forget that dehydrated tomatoes should be conditioned before storage. Find out how at: How to Dry Cherry Tomatoes.

Make Salsa

I seldom make red tomato salsa. Why? Because I am basically lazy and don’t want to peel and seed the tomatoes. So, while I make green tomato or tomatillo salsa every year, red tomatoes get turned into puree or taco sauce.

Until this year. This year I made cherry tomato salsa. Use any approved red tomato salsa recipe and substitute quartered cherry tomatoes for the slicer or paste tomatoes. You don’t need to peel and seed the cherry tomatoes, although some cherry tomato salsa recipes suggest that you do – people with way more patience than I have!

I do recommend that you use a recipe that requires only a little liquid, as the cherry tomatoes produce more liquid than paste tomatoes. The end result will be a thinner salsa, but one that is sweet and tangy. If you prefer a thicker salsa, thicken each jar as you open it with a little corn starch.

Cherry Tomatoes in Oil

For many years, it was not considered safe to can tomatoes in oil at home. Luckily there is now an approved method. Bathing dehydrated cherry tomatoes in oil, is not only a wonderful way to preserve your harvest, it’s also fantastic hostess or holiday gift.  

Find out how to safely preserve your late-season cherry tomatoes in my previous post: Make Your Own Dried Tomatoes in Oil.

Good luck with your own late-season cherry tomato harvest. Now I need to get busy preserving!

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at SeedToPantry.com. Find her professional food writing info at PenandProvisions.com.

October 2, 2019

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