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How to Dry Tomatoes

They’ll taste great come winter

Are you being flooded with tomatoes? My neighbors are willing to take their share but they can take only so many. If you enjoy canning, make catsup, salsa, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. I have and still have tomatoes to spare.
    I fry green tomatoes by dredging them through a mixture of corn meal and Old Bay prior to frying in olive oil. Fried red tomatoes are also a favorite for some.
    If you have a food drier, try drying tomato slices.
    First brush the grill of the drier with olive oil so the slices are easy to remove. Cut and discard both the stem and flower end of each tomato. The skin at both ends of the tomato prevents them from drying properly. Cut uniform slices one-fourth to one-third-inch thick. Pack the slices on the grill shoulder to shoulder because they shrink excessively while drying.
    My forced-draft drier uses a stack of four grills. The temperature setting of 125 degrees is ideal. To reduce electrical demand, I put the drier in my greenhouse, where summer temperatures often are 110 degrees and above.
    Dry for 15 to 20 hours or until the tomato slices are brittle. While the slices are still warm, place them in zipper bags to prevent them from absorbing water from the air. I store the sealed bags in the freezer.
    Dried tomatoes have many uses. They are great to eat as chips, can be added to stews for a little tomato tang or can be pulverized in a food processor and used as a thickener in making tomato sauces or stews. I have even added the pulverized tomatoes to mashed potatoes for color and flavor.
    My mother was a great one for canning fruits and vegetables. Nothing from the garden went to waste. One of her favorite blends was pickle-lily. The first frost in the fall came in September in New Hampshire, and at the first indication, my job was to harvest all of the green tomatoes from the garden. The larger tomatoes were wrapped in newspapers, packed in boxes and stored in the cold cellar. The smaller tomatoes were made into pickle-lily. I never liked it, but the rest of the family, including my grandfather, would eat a quart jar per meal.

Dear Bay Gardener

I found this bug on my tomato plant. Is it harmful or helpful to my garden?
    –Jerry Inzer, Deale

The bug on the tomato plant is a tomato hornworm that is being killed by the larvae of a wasp. This is biological control at its finest. Tomato hornworm can do a lot of damage to tomatoes, but you are very fortunate that a predator is destroying the hornworm.
    Remove the tomato leaf and lay it on the ground in the shade of the tomato plant. Allow the larvae to do their thing and this pest will not bother you again. You have established a good bio-control program in your garden.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.