Grit Blogs > Of Mice and Mountain Men

Turning Tomato Skins into Instant Tomato

If you freeze or can tomatoes you will end up with tomato skins to deal with.  I've always tossed them in the compost bin, although some will say I shouldn't because tomatoes are part of the Nightshade family and do not belong in the composter. Whether this is true or not is a topic for another discussion.  Today I want to discuss an alternative means of using tomato skins should you decide not to compost them: instant tomatoes. 

Removing Tomato Skins 

To remove skins from tomatoes for canning or saucing, drop them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds; just until the skin splits, fish them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into cold water (to stop the cooking process).  Once cool, core the tomato and the skins will peel away easily.  When freezing tomatoes, core and clean them, cut them into quarters and freeze.  After thawing, the toughened skins will slip right off. 

Drying Tomato Skins 

Drying tomato skins 

Collect the skins in a colander to drain off as much fluid as possible.  When you've finished doing what you're doing with the tomatoes themselves, set up your food dehydrator and spritz the trays with a non-stick cooking spray. 

Lay the tomato skins on the trays, skin side down, in a single layer.  Run the dehydrator until the skins are crispy dry - like onion skins. 

 Dried Tomato Skins  

Once thoroughly dry, collect the skins and place them into the cup of a small food processor.  If you can not proceed to the following step right away, seal the dried tomato skins in a good zip-lock bag (like a freezer bag) and squeeze out as much air as you can before zipping it all the way closed.  This is to keep them from re-absorbing moisture from the air (probably not a problem if you live in Nevada, but here in the Smoky Mountains humidity levels run high).  Grind the skins in small batches using a blade made for pulverizing.  

Grind dry skins into a powder
The objective is to reduce the skins to a fine powder.  You may need to pulse the grinder a few times to get the contents evenly ground. 

Transfer each batch to a glass jar that seals up tightly.  Refrigeration is not needed as long as the powder stays dry. 

How to Use Powdered Tomato 

Once you have the powdered tomato on hand there are several uses.  One is to mix even amounts of powdered tomato and water to make your own tomato paste.  Thin further for an approximation of tomato sauce.  Or you can add the powder to soups, stews, eggs and casseroles to get a tomato flavor when actual tomatoes are not needed. 

One thing that came readily to my mind as I was making this tomato powder is that it is far more easily transported and stored than fresh tomatoes.  The culinary endeavors of campers, hikers, sailors, mountain climbers, and the like could benefit from having "instant tomatoes" tucked away to liven up their cooking when bringing fresh tomatoes isn't practical. I'd recommend transferring a supply to a zip-lock bag for backpacking.

The fact that this foodstuff is made from something that would ordinarily go into the rubbish or the compost bin, is just an added bonus. 

robert usleaman
9/6/2012 1:31:54 AM

Interesting. Wish I read this a few days again, just blanched 30 lbs of tomatoes and had all this skins. Will have to try it with the tomatoes that just starting to turn on my plants in the back yard.


s.m.r. saia
8/13/2012 11:52:01 AM

Wow, what a great idea! Thanks!


allan douglas
8/3/2012 1:29:27 AM

Hi Dave, Unfortunately I cannot claim to have thought up this trick. I read about it somewhere a while back, remembered it when I was skinning tomatoes for pasta sauce and decided to give it a try. It takes very little extra work, the skins dry quickly and the powdered tomato has a lot of flavor. Its great used as a seasoning and the paste works well for cooking. Thinning it for sauce… eh, not so much. Nightshades: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants are supposed to be tossed on the burn pile, not the compost pile: at least the green parts. Some say the “fruit” part is OK to compost, others disagree. Still others claim it’s all hogwash as long as the plants aren’t diseased. I prefer to pay it safe, so this is a great way to use something I would otherwise have to toss out. I hear you folks have got a major dry spell going out your way: hope you’re able to keep Terra Nova Garden going – have any firemen friends?


nebraska dave
8/2/2012 1:27:41 PM

Allan, what a great way to use tomato skins. Who would have thought that tomato skins could be used as a seasoning for food dishes. Did you come up with that idea on your own or did you read about it some where? Such a simple thing to do. I've not heard about the night shade thing either. It's supposed to be bad for the compost pile? I just got given a big barrel composter, so I'll have research how to use that. It will be a good addition to the garden. Have a great day in the garden.