Fresh in a salad, roasted with olive oil as a side dish, or slowly cooked down into a classic tomato sauce — tomatoes reign supreme as one of the most popular veggies (although they’re technically berries!) worldwide.
If you’re lucky enough to have tasted sun-ripened, garden-grown tomatoes fresh off the vine, you can appreciate their perfect balance of sweet and tangy.
But sadly, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost one third of leftover tomatoes end up as food waste in American households. That’s 21 tomatoes per person a year!
Being passionate about reducing food waste at home, we’ve prepared 3 easy and practical zero waste tips on how to use up leftover tomatoes before they go bad.
Whether you bought perfectly ripe or unripe tomatoes, you should keep them at room temperature, stem side down, to preserve their flavor and texture.
The reason we store tomatoes upside down is to lock out the moisture and prevent bacteria from coming in.
Food Huggers Hack: You can turn your tomato upside down on a Food Hugger to protect it and also keep it from bruising. Added bonus is that it looks like your tomato is on a little pedestal.
Refrigerate Your Tomatoes
If your leftover tomatoes are on the verge of becoming overripe, you can put them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process for a few days.
Try to keep them in the door so that they get a little bit of chill, but not so much that you end up with mealy texture in your tomatoes. You can also place them in a bowl and cover it with one of our flexible and stackable Food Huggers Lids. These eco friendly kitchen tools will give them a bit of extra insulation and help you reduce food waste at home.
Be warned: these tomatoes are best used in cooking, as cold will take away from their flavor.
Need just half of a tomato when that BLT craving kicks in? Our signature Food Huggers – one of the best plastic wrap alternatives around – come to the rescue! Just place your leftover tomato half (or a slice) into a Food Hugger, press down to fold it inward and store it in the fridge.
Make Dried Tomatoes
People have been using sun-drying as a method for preserving tomatoes for centuries. And it’s exactly what it sounds like — drying your leftover tomatoes in the sun.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start with choosing ripe, firm and meaty tomatoes
- Cut them into thin, even slices up to ¼ inch thick
- Place onto the drying surface – something that allows air circulation, like a wire rack or bamboo racks with slats.
- Season with salt (we prefer sea salt because it’s less processed) and spices of your choice (black pepper, chili flakes, basil, oregano and parsley go well with tomatoes)
- Cover the slices with cheesecloth or a thin mesh net to protect them from insects and birds
- Place in a sunny spot with good airflow and low humidity
- Dry for 3-7 days, flipping them occasionally for even drying
- Store when done: store dried tomatoes in a jar covered with a Food Hugger Lid in your refrigerator.
Too much work? Oven “sun dry” your tomatoes! The process is similar to the above, but instead of placing them in a sunny spot, put the tomatoes onto a baking sheet and into a preheated oven (140-170 degrees). Keep the door slightly open to let the moisture escape and slow roast until dry but juicy — for about 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Keep an eye on them throughout this process so they don’t get burnt or overcooked.
Both methods will result in tomatoes that lost most of the water content but kept all the flavor and sugar. Packed with umami, dried tomatoes are perfect for dishes that need a pop of flavor – like pasta sauces, pizzas or dips.
Use Up Your Overripe or Bruised Tomatoes
Have more leftover tomatoes than you can handle? Luckily, tomatoes may be the most versatile vegetable around. Here are some of the ways you can put them to good use.
Spanish Tomato Toast
Simple, easy and delicious – this popular Spanish grated tomato toast will become your go-to breakfast. All you need is a slice of bread, leftover tomato and this classic Andalusian recipe.
Not exactly a standalone dish, but tomato passata is a concentrated and flavorful sauce that is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine – the diet of longevity. Making your own from scratch is simple, easy and healthier than store-bought options:
- Blanch and peel the tomatoes
- Remove skin and seeds
- Cook over low heat until tomatoes break down to saucy consistency
- Strain through a sieve or mesh strainer for smoothness
- Season with salt and herbs and spices of your choice
Perfect for hot summer days, served over spaghetti and with a touch of parmesan!
This flavorful chilled soup is as close to a zero waste dish as you can get, and it’s so much more than the sum of its parts: leftover tomatoes, veggies and stale bread you have in your kitchen. Plus, it’s extra tasty when served the next day!
There are many gazpacho recipes out there, but we always keep coming back to this one by the chef Gordon Ramsay.
Storebought ketchup has a bad reputation because of its high sugar content. But whipping up your own healthy low-sugar or sugar-free version is easy and fast:
- Chop up 2 pounds of ripe leftover tomatoes
- Add them to a saucepan with sauteed minced garlic and diced onions
- Add a splash of wine vinegar
- Simmer for 20 minutes, then add monk fruit
(or a natural sweetener you prefer) and salt to your liking
- Simmer for another 10 minutes
(or until the mixture reaches ketchup-like consistency)
- Blend until smooth
- Cool and transfer into jars
- Cover with a Food Hugger
Let’s Make Every Bite Count
Tomatoes are delicious, versatile and highly nutritious.
By learning how to properly store and use your leftover tomatoes, you are:
- Preventing them from ending up in landfills
- Saving resources (think water, energy, transportation cost and land),
- Contributing to a more sustainable and fair food system.
Share It on Socials!
As a sustainability-focused, women owned and B Corp certified business, Food Huggers have been offering zero waste kitchen tools and sustainable swaps for cleaner, greener tomorrow since 2013.
If you found value in this article, we’d appreciate it if you share it on your social media.
We’d also love to hear – what’s your favorite method of preventing tomatoes from going to waste?