HortiCulture: 10 Uses for an Abundance of Tomatoes

Culture, according to the Oxford English Dictionary – that is, the highest authority – directly translates to “way of life.” Any group’s way of life is dictated not only by their fellow humans, but by the nature and environment in which they live. The natural world’s influence is more powerful than any cultural apparatus humans could invent.

And should you seek it out, its influence increases exponentially. Case in point: horticulture. It quickly becomes a way of life because the returns are so great. Sometimes there are so many that they’re overwhelming. When gardeners talk about leaving zucchinis on their neighbors’ front steps under cover of darkness, they may smile and laugh like they’re joking. They’re not joking. Zucchinis are amazing plants and versatile in the kitchen, which is why most gardeners grow them.

Tomatoes are another go-to. The plants are cheap, resilient, and sturdier than most vines. Plus, they put out a buttload of fruit. So much, in fact, that at some point in the summer, you are inundated with tomatoes. They are everywhere. You have turned them into food using every possible method: slicing, stuffing, souping, saucing, etc. You made gazpacho and even tomato jam. You have tomato juice leaking out of your pores. At some point in the summer – and maybe you’ve already reached that point – you don’t ever want to see another tomato again. But still… they come.

So here are 10 uses for tomatoes many of us forget about:

  • Soothe your sunburn. Use fresh tomatoes like you would a leaf fresh of your aloe plant: cut into it and smush (or smoosh if you want to get scientific about it) the juice all over the affected area.
  • Tomatoes are actually good for your skin any time. A tomato-based facial scrub is stupid easy to make. Step 1: Mix a mashed-up tomato with some granulated sugar. Step 2: Smear on face. Step 3: Rinse.
  • And since tomatoes are so good for your skin, of course someone figured out how to make tomato soap. That’s s-o-A-p.
  • This sounds silly, but having worked in education, just trust me: you know how if you leave tomatoes on your counter long enough, the seeds inside them may begin to sprout? It’s cool to see even as an adult. Your local elementary school science department would be grateful to receive free tomatoes to try this experiment with their students. It makes for a great lesson plan, plus it’s one less thing they have to pay for out of their own pockets.
  • Remember: if you get a good sturdy plant, save some of the seeds. We often forget to do this because most of us don’t think about planting more tomatoes when we’re trying to get rid of them all.
  • Bloody Mary party! Even if it’s just you. A few summers ago, I had so many tomatoes, I couldn’t give them away fast enough. Late one evening, about six episodes into a Bob’s Burgers marathon, I was inspired. Two hours later, I had solid buzz and a ton of homemade Bloody Mary mix, which was much easier to get rid of than the raw tomatoes.
  • Boiling tomato skins creates a natural red dye. I’ve used them to dye eggs and they look classy AF. Freeze entire raw tomatoes or just the skins and use them in the spring. Or just dye eggs whenever you feel like it. You’re an adult. You do what you want with your eggs.
  • On a related note, you may be tired of tomatoes now, but when that first winter storm hits, tomato soup with grilled cheese sounds pretty good. That’s why we can.

Canning isn’t difficult, and you really don’t need all the fancy equipment Martha Stewart tells you to use. Aside from the jars and lids, you can do with a large pot, a pair of tongs, and a ladle.

That little grate keeps lids from getting stuck on the bottom.

Googling “canned tomato recipes” yields multiple canning options, including pickling. I have never tasted pickled tomatoes, but I’ll try anything once.

  • Make art and/or jewelry with them. I swear I’ve seen real tomato slices made into earrings. For this, you need a dehydrator and some kind of sealant, like a shellac or clear coat. You can find the latter at any arts&crafts shop. As for the former…
  • Dehydration is another storing method we tend to overlook. Dehydrated tomatoes are similar to sun-dried tomatoes and can be used in many of the same dishes.

Dehydrators often wind up at second-hand stores. People buy them new and then don’t use them – mostly because  (Pro-tip: the upper middle-class are notorious about buying trendy kitchen equipment they only use once; check out thrift shops in those neighborhoods first.)

Dehydrators are great, however, if you grow your own food. You can dry herbs and fruit, plus most veggies make yummy chips.

Aaaand that’s ten. I didn’t number them because our relationship is based on trust.

If you have anything to add to the list, please let us know in the comments.

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