Juicy tips for enjoying fresh and canned tomatoes

Follow these tips to enjoy fresh tomatoes this season and preserve them safely for later.

Fresh tomatoes are a favorite of mine. For me, a fresh tomato sandwich is a delicacy that only comes in late summer and early fall. If you have never had a tomato sandwich you should try it. First, make sure the tomato for your sandwich is clean. Using lukewarm to cool running water clean the tomato and then dry it with a paper towel. Cut the tomato into fairly thick slices and put it on whole-wheat bread with some mayonnaise. Then sit back and enjoy this nutritious sandwich.

Tips for handling fresh tomatoes:

  • For your tomato sandwich or any tomato you are going to eat raw, do not use any kind of soap, cleaner or bleach to clean it. Tomatoes, like all fruits and vegetables, are quite absorbent and will absorb any soap or bleach used to clean them.
  • It is recommended that produce that will be eaten raw, be dried after being rinsed. Drying produce with a paper towel helps to reduce any bacteria that may be present even after rinsing it. Drying is not necessary or even recommended for produce that will be cooked.

Michigan tomatoes are at their prime in August and September but are available from July to October. Here is a handy Michigan Availability Guide so you can easily find out when dozens of popular items are in season throughout the year.

If you have more tomatoes than you can eat then consider preserving them.

Tips when canning tomatoes:

  • It is necessary to acidify red and yellow tomatoes when you can them. Tomatoes can have a ph. of 4.6 which is on the borderline of being low acid. With the many different tomato varieties, you really don’t know if the tomatoes you are consuming have enough acid in them to make them safe to water bath or pressure can, without added acidification. So the way to fix this situation is to acidify all canned tomatoes. You may be told that your heirloom tomatoes are high acid but you cannot be sure, so be safe and acidify.
  • To acidify tomatoes add bottled lemon juice or citric acid. The lemon juice or citric acid raises the acidity level enough that Clostridium botulinum spores cannot survive and produce a deadly toxin that causes botulism.
  • Add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or a half-teaspoon of citric acid to each quart of tomatoes. Use one tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or one-quarter teaspoon citric acid for each pint of tomatoes or tomato juice. Add the lemon juice or citric acid before filling the jars with tomatoes or tomato juice.

Michigan State University Extension food preservation classes are available to help you learn about canning or to update your already existing knowledge of preserving food.

Reliable, research-based, food preservation information for tomatoes or any food can also be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, updated Ball Blue Books, So Easy to Preserve and the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving.

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