Excess produce? Make your own sun-dried tomatoes.

By Kari Olivey

Make tasty bruschetta using your own sun-dried tomatoes (see recipe below).

With the abundance of tomatoes lining our roads, or the constant harvesting of cherry tomatoes from your vegetable garden, drying tomatoes under the hot summer sun to preserve them for later use in tasty recipes is a great idea.

You can dry any tomato. However, it is best to use medium-sized tomatoes as they have a thick flesh, not too much space in the middle, and a few seeds. Cherry tomatoes should be halved and will take longer to dry. The larger tomatoes have a lot of space in the middle and are not very fleshy. Tomatoes generally take a day or two to dry; it is best to get them ready early in the morning. Follow these instructions on how to dry tomatoes:

Top and Tail your tomatoes | TheZimGardener

1. Top and tail the tomatoes and slice. If you are using cherry tomatoes, halve them.
2. Place a newspaper flat on a table and sprinkle salt on newspaper. Place the sliced tomato on the newspaper and sprinkle more salt on top of the tomatoes.
3. Cover the tomatoes with another piece of newspaper and pat lightly; this helps to remove excess moisture from the tomatoes so they will dry faster.
4. Remove slices from the newspaper and place on a rack in the full sun. Make sure the rack has good airflow underneath it. Cover with a mozzie net or fly net. Bell peppers are great to store with tomatoes. Just slice them up and place on the rack with the tomatoes. Remove when dry.

If your tomatoes don’t dry on the first day, bring them inside and place them in an area with good airflow. Put them out in the sun the following morning.

Preserving options:

Dried tomatoes can be preserved in olive oil or dry. However, the time you dry them will differ depending on how you want to preserve them.

Dried and crunchy
If you want to store the tomatoes dry, you must dry them until they are crunchy and hard. You can then store these in an airtight container; they also freeze well. The flavour of sun-dried tomatoes is quite intense, concentrated, and slightly salty, so a little goes a long way. They are great to use when cooking stews and pasta dishes. Try replacing canned tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes. It is important to note that sun-dried tomatoes are not so nice to cook or eat when they are crunchy and hard. Before cooking with them, rehydrate the tomatoes by covering them in hot water for half an hour or more; keep this water for using in stocks, etc. Preserving sun-dried tomatoes in oil
If you want to store them in olive oil or the oil of choice, dry your tomatoes so they are not crunchy or hard, but nice and soft. Layer them in the jar. If you would like to add more flavour, layer them with the dried peppers, basil, sliced garlic cloves and other herbs.Cover them with oil until the jar is full. I prefer to use olive oil as you can use it on your salad.

Quick and easy recipe ideas for sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes in oil are great to use in salads, wraps, and toasted sandwiches. For a quick an easy snack, try the dried tomatoes with mozzarella or feta cheese and some fresh basil on a slice of toasted French loaf.If you chop the sun-dried tomatoes finely, you can use them when you are making scones, bread, quiches and other savoury dishes. When serving olives, chop sun-dried tomatoes in oil and mix them with the olives to add more colour and taste.

Sun-dried tomato dressing
Sun-dried tomato dressing is the perfect addition to many salads, pastas, sandwiches and more.
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup oil from sun-dried tomatoes

Add sun-dried tomatoes to blender and blend to smaller pieces. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and blend until well combined. Pour into a container for serving. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

Bruschetta with your own sun-dried tomatoes
1 baguette, sliced into about 24 even rounds
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
Feta cheese to sprinkle (optional)

Preheat oven to 180° C. Toast the baguette slices on 2 sheet pans for 5-10 minutes, until the bread is lightly browned and crisp. Evenly distribute the fresh mozzarella on the toasted baguette slices. Return to the oven for another 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese.

While the bread is toasting, in a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, basil and salt and pepper. Top the toasted baguette slices with the tomato mixture and feta (if chosen) serve immediately.

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