I love tomato season, when you can get fully ripe, fresh tomatoes from your garden! This year I only had a few tomato plants in my garden, but I have been able to benefit from local farmers’ larger crops. I recently bought a full bushel (54 lbs) of locally grown, ripened on the vine tomatoes for $16! They were much cheaper, and MUCH better tasting than ones you can buy in the store! Which is why it was worth it to buy so many tomatoes in bulk, and preserve them for later use during the year.
I will just say that I am not big into canning. It can be hot, messy, and time consuming. When I was completing my Master Gardener certification in 2014, I learned from two of my fellow, more experienced gardeners (who were tending a tomato bed with me for the season), that the easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them! Before that, I had never thought of freezing tomatoes before. So I called my local food preservation extension office, who confirmed that you can freeze tomatoes for up to one year while retaining full nutritional value. So easy!!! I have frozen a lot of tomatoes since then. Here are the simple steps below:
How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes – 3 Steps:
- Wash tomatoes with lukewarm water. Remove any green stems. Do not cut them – leave whole.
- Place tomatoes in a single layer into a gallon-sized freezer bag, or other freezer safe container and seal. If using a ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible before sealing. (If the tomatoes are placed in a single layer in the bag, they do not stick together when frozen. However, if you want to fill a bag or container with tomatoes stacked on top of one another, you should freeze the tomatoes on a cookie sheet before putting them into the freezer container to prevent them sticking together during freezing.)
- Label and date the container (frozen tomatoes should be used within one year to retain maximum nutritional value). Place in freezer. Voila – you are done!
Other options for freezing tomatoes:
You can peel the tomatoes before freezing (skins remove easily if you blanch whole tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then place the tomatoes in ice water.) You may dice, puree, or cut the tomatoes in slices (freeze slices separately on a cookie sheet, and then stack with parchment paper between them), depending on how you would like to use them in recipes later.
Is blanching necessary?
(Some other sites will say that you do, but no, you don’t have to blanch tomatoes before freezing. Check out this article from Michigan State University’s research-based extension office, which explains that you CAN blanch to help remove skins before freezing, but otherwise it is unnecessary if you want to leave the skins on.)
How do you Use Frozen Tomatoes?
When you are ready to use your whole, frozen tomatoes, thaw them slightly and cut out the top centers where the stem was attached, while they are still slightly frozen and hard. (If you wait until they are completely thawed before cutting out the centers, the tomatoes will become mushy and will be difficult to work with, so handle them before they completely thaw!) Previously frozen tomatoes are best in tomato sauces or soups, because as I just mentioned, the cell structure breaks down and they become quite mushy when completely thawed. A link to one of my favorite recipes using frozen tomatoes is below. I make this recipe throughout the winter when fresh garden tomatoes are long past being available.