We have tried growing a number of different varieties of tomatoes in the garden, but have only had marginal success with the ‘Black Russian’ variety. The beefsteak and other varieties that could be grown successfully in Rockhampton during the winter months do not survive the humid conditions of summer on the Hinterland. [Rockhampton winters are mild and not humid, while the summers are very hot and humid. Hinterland summers are warm and humid, while the winters are cool and drier.]

Black Russian tomatoes (an average sized egg provides a size comparison)

The little cherry tomatoes that just come up by themselves are, however, extremely prolific. They appear out of nowhere and flourish despite the humidity of summer. They are ideal to use in salads, but when it comes down to preserving them, they are extremely fiddly to use in relishes and chutneys are they are tedious to peel! It is far easier to peel a large tomato than to peel a small one! Thus, until we find a suitable variety to use for relish and sauce, we have to make do with purchasing tomatoes.

As already mentioned, cherry tomatoes are ideal to use in salads and for garnishes. We also use them on pizzas to add some colour. And of course they are great with scrambled egg. Because we have such an abundant crop, we find we cannot use up all the tomatoes at once and thus decided to try and preserve them as semi-dried tomatoes.

We washed them and cut each in half, and placed them on the drying sheets on each of the wire trays of the dehydrator. The dehydrator came with the drying sheets to use for fruit leathers, but we find they are ideal to use for the little tomatoes, as it stops them falling through the wire trays as they shrink on drying.

The cherry tomatoes are dried for 10 hours at 55 degrees celcius. It is important not to let them dry out completely as they become very hard and difficult to eat. As semi-dried tomatoes they are perfect for use in savoury dishes, such as pizza and fritata. The semi-dried tomatoes can be stored in ziplock bags or in bottles either as they are, or added to glass jars and filled with good quality, cold pressed and unrefined olive oil.

A bowl of semi-dried tomatoes, ready to be packaged into zip-lock bags or olive oil for storage

The semi-dried tomatoes can be used to garnish dishes, used for pizza toppings, and used in cooking. Their concentrated flavour really enhances the taste of the food!

In our hot and humid climate we decided it was best to store the ziplock bags of semi-dried tomatoes in the fridge.

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