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Dry and pulverize tomatoes to store as a spice

Recipe: Try tomato flakes or powder on popcorn, veggies, salads

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Flakes made from tomato skins add zip to popcorn.  (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

You've sliced, diced, sandwiched, roasted, cobbled, canned and crushed your tomato crop. Now, before those tomatoes fade away completely, here's your chance to powder them.

I'd never thought of doing this until earlier this summer when I was making salsa to can. The tomatoes needed to be peeled, but I was using my lovely meaty Juliet cherry tomatoes. No way was I going to dip hundreds of these in hot water and peel them. Instead, I sliced them in half,  put them cut side down on pans, and popped them under the broiler. Success! The skins slid right off.

Then I looked at the big pile of skins.

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The dried tomato skins are ready to be crumbled.


Hmm, I wondered, could I turn those into tomato powder?

In this case, it was a pretty easy yes. I already had pans out that I could reuse after scraping the Juliets off them.

I spread the skins across the parchment paper on the pans and returned them to the oven, this time set at 200 degrees. I put them in there for an hour or so. Then, just to be sure they were completely dry, I turned off the oven and left them there overnight. (If you have a dehydrator, this will be even easier.)

The skins the next morning crumbled easily. I loaded them all into my food processor and whirred them to flakes. If you want powder, just keep whirring. The powder stores beautifully in a glass jar on the spice shelf.

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Tomato flakes are delicious on green beans.

Tomato powder brightens up vegetables and salad dressings, but the most fun use is sprinkled over hot popcorn. Add some to the melting butter, then sprinkle on more. Game day snack, anyone?

Tomato powder

This is less of a recipe and more of a method. I used only skins, but you also could use leftover tomato pulp or even very thinly sliced tomatoes -- the drying will take longer, however.

Ingredients:

Tomato skins, enough to thinly cover at least one quarter-sheet baking pan (though as long as you're doing this, why not do several pans' worth?)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Cover baking pans with parchment paper (preferred) or lightly grease them. Spread skins thinly and evenly over the pans, and put pans in the oven. Check after 1 hour to judge how much longer to keep the heat on. Skins may be already dry, especially if they were cooked as part of being removed from the tomatoes.

When everything seems dry, turn off the oven, leaving the pans inside for several hours or overnight to completely dry and cool.

Remove the tomato skins from the oven, and check that the skins crumble easily. Put them in a blender, food processor or spice blender. Whir until you have the consistency of flakes or powder you want.

(If the tomato skins are sticking to the side of the blender, they're not dry enough and need to be put back in the oven for awhile.)

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Tomato flakes ready to store and use. 

Store powder in a clean closed glass jar at room temperature. Probably best to use it in six months for best flavor.

(Note on drying tomato pulp or thin slices: Use the lowest setting available on your oven, or use a dehydrator. Drying the tomatoes thoroughly may take as long as 18 hours.)


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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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