If you’ve been growing your own tomatoes this year, you’ll know that when tomato harvest season comes, it’s all hands on deck to get them off the vine and into the jars for preservation. It can be a bit of a pain because you don’t want a single tomato to go to waste but preserving tomatoes is messy – until you learn how to make tomato powder that will last right through the winter.
Tomatoes are actually pretty easy to preserve but they can be time consuming to get done. Tomato sauce also takes up a lot of room on your shelves so in today’s guide I’m going to show you how can preserve your tomatoes all winter long without all the hassle by turning them into delicious tomato powder.
Turning your tomatoes into tomato powder retains all the nutrients and does not take up as much space on your shelf (think exchanging 1 jar for 5 jars) as well as being just as delicious as the real thing and easy to re-use and turn into wholesome meals and sauces.
The process we’ll use to do it is through drying, or dehydration. Dehydration works best if you have a food dehydrator but if you don’t, you can always use your oven on it’s lowest heat setting.
A New Method To Preserve Tomatoes All Winter Long: Tomato Powder
For years, canning (bottling) tomatoes and making tomato sauces was my go to way to preserve all of my excess garden tomatoes. I’m still going to do that when it makes sense but it takes up a lot of room and it’s a lot of work and if there’s a better way to do things, then I’m all over that!
I’ve been using my dehydrator every week for months now, making sure to dehydrate our leftover fruit and veg at the end of the week. I’ve been dehydrating onions and celery and crushing them up into an onion powder in the nutri-bullet (I do have a mortar and pestle but the nutri-bullet makes swift work of the task at hand) and this week, as I was doing that, I was looking over at my bowl of freshly picked tomatoes thinking about how I could preserve them and then the idea to make tomato powder hit me.
Why had I never thought of that before now?
It seems so obvious when you realise. And the great thing about condensing tomatoes down into a powder is that it’s so much quicker to do (after you’ve dehydrated them of course and with the aid of your electric food processor!) and they take up much less space on your shelf. On top of that, powder can be used in so many different ways for meal preparation.
You can turn it into paste or sauce or put it into soups or stews or sprinkle it onto skillet meals. It really is quite amazing.
The Best Time To Pick Tomatoes For Tomato Powder
The best time to pick your tomatoes off the vine is before they turn bright red ‘ripe’ on the vine, at the stage between turning orange and their final red.
Contrary to what you might think, tomatoes will ripen off the vine. It’s also not common knowledge but tomatoes will stop taking nutrients from the plant when they begin to turn orange to red.
Pick them off the vine at this stage and then store them not in a bright sunny spot on the windowsill but in a shaded, cool area, about 65 degrees with good airflow. They will ripen into beautiful, delicious tomatoes from here and they will make the best tomato powder for preservation.
When they turn that familiar bright red colour and they are firm to touch but not hard, they are ready to preserve.
How To Make Tomato Powder
The beauty of this method is that you can mix your different tomato varieties into one delicious powder. In my greenhouse, I grow a couple of varieties of tomatoes, I grow smaller bush tomatoes and large beef steak type for sandwiches.
When I’m making tomato powder, I don’t discriminate about which type goes into the dehydrator and into the powder jar. It’s all good.
It’s worth saying here as well that you don’t need to stick to only tomatoes you grow yourself for this; you can use the same method for any store bought tomatoes to help them last longer too.
- Wash your tomatoes and slice them into thin slices, about 1cm thick. The slicing doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want uniform pieces so they all dry at the same rate. You don’t want some that, by the end of the dehydration process, are brittle and some that are still squishy.
- Place onto your dehydrator trays, making sure to leave room for air to flow around each slice. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you would use your oven racks.
- Place the trays into your dehydrator and set your temperature to 135 degrees for about 8 hours. You may need to adjust time slightly depending on how thick you cut your slices. What you’re going for though, is brittle, not squishy dried tomato slices by the end of it. You don’t want to have any moisture left because that will affect the powdering process.
I use my electriQ food dehydrator but I hear BioChef have a 40% discount on at the moment so you may want to invest in one of those. They are so versatile and they make your quest for self sufficiency so much more achievable because food preservation is truly half of the battle.
- After the dehydration process is complete, you’ll need to put the slices into your food blender. A high powered blender works best. I use a Nutri Bullet but any will do. I guess you could also use a hand crank fine coffee grinder if you you need to go old school.
- After 30 seconds or so of blending you’ll have beautiful bright red tomato powder and when you take the lid off the blender, you’ll be smacked in the face with a tantalising, mouthwatering fresh tomato smell. You may end up with a few bigger chunks of tomato but for the most part, it will be a finely ground powder.
- Fill up your jar.
You can see you’ve managed now to pack 5 jars worth of canned tomatoes into a single jar of tomato powder.
For more information about what else you can do by dehydrating food, visit our dedicated guide.
How Long Will Tomato Powder Store For?
Once dried and packed into airtight jars, your tomato powder will store for at least 12 months. Be sure to add a label to the jar or write on the lid your packing date to help you manage your long term food storage supplies.
How To Use Tomato Powder
Tomato powder is very versatile and can be made into paste, sprinkled onto meats, added to spice mixes, added to soups and salads for flavouring.
To make tomato paste with the powder which can be used as a sauce or pizza topping all you have to do is mix 1 part water to 2 parts tomato powder. If you want a runnier consistency, simply increase the ratio (2 parts water to 2 parts powder).
Jodi over at Your Thrive Life has a great article with 15 ways to use tomato powder in recipes so go check that out for ideas.
Final Thoughts On Making Tomato Powder
Making your own tomato powder is now my favourite way to preserve tomatoes. It takes up much less time (the dehydration time doesn’t really count because you don’t have to sit and watch it dehydrate) and is far less messy and the final product tastes great and takes up less space on your shelf.
I’m not sure what there is to not like about it!
Most of all though, making your own tomato powder means you can strip the vine and ensure that no tomato gets left behind…