Best way to use sptty/split tomatoes

2ajsmamaOctober 2, 2011

I know I posted on using split tomatoes before (ended up just cooking those into juice and didn't can it, put 1.5 quarts in fridge for DH). But now with all this rain, even with throwing all the worst split/rotting ones as I picked them, I have a bunch sitting on my counter that have little black spots (not rot - blight?). More with some splits (not all the way through the skin), still more that have developed small rotten/moldy areas while sitting waiting for me to get to them (I've thrown out SOOOO many, I hate to throw out more). And more yet that were good Friday but didn't sell at market (but they're still sitting in the cab of the truck, went to fair yesterday and haven't pulled them out so I don't know how they are).

So, in order, what should I do with roughly 10 lbs of tomatoes (don't know how many pounds of each)? Are spotty ones OK to freeze and process later as long as no soft spots?

1. Rotten spots/splits - cut them out, peel and cook - can? Freeze? Or pitch?

2. Black spots on skin - peel and can? Freeze? Not too many of these (maybe 1-2 lbs of small slicers)

3. Perfect (maybe 3 lbs mixed slicers and plum if they haven't gone bad sitting in the truck 36 hrs) - these are fine for canning

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I do use less than perfect tomatoes for making sauce. I peel the skins, cut out any imperfections - areas around the split, soft spots, and areas where there were black spots on the skin. I simmer the sauce for a couple hours, so I have made the assumption that any bacteria would be killed by the long cooking time.

Since these are end of year tomatoes, I usually don't have a ton of them. So I have usually just frozen the sauce since I hate to run my canner for less than a full batch. But I wouldn't hesitate to can them if I had enough.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 9:44AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Not recommended. If must be used, pressure can.

split tomatoes?

salsa with split tomatoes?


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 9:48AM
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Don't have a PC (not one with a weight set that I can use on my stove).

Linda Z says in her Joy of Pickling, Mary Randolph's recipe for Ketchup, to add 1/2C of vinegar to the tomato puree (made with 1 peck of tomatoes, yield 2.5 pints). I probably wouldn't even BWB it since there is no other vinegar (or sugar) in this recipe, but was thinking of making a pint or half pint of this ketchup and keeping it in the fridge?

I know I had asked about canning them before (2nd link from Dave) - for the record, I ended up just juicing those as I said above, they were too seedy to even bother with for spaghetti sauce.

Even the plum tomatoes I picked at blush have been getting rotten spots on them sitting on my counter, it's been so humid out. More rain when we woke up this AM (though last night's outdoor concert was dry - cold, but dry). I told DH we might as well just build an ark. He said we could move to the rain forest - at least it would be warmer.

Sorry for everybody suffering from drought, but this has had to be the wettest year on record (except for exceptionally dry July might throw that off) here in New England and the gardens/crops have really suffered.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 10:45AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Surely you don't mean to imply that Linda Z is offering that as a way to use poor quality tomatoes?

Poor quality IN equals poor quality and likely unsafe OUT or I think it was Carol who said the other day, "junk in equals junk out".

Even the plum tomatoes I picked at blush have been getting rotten spots on them sitting on my counter,

That indicates either Alternaria Canker or Anthracnose - neither of which should be canned (or even kept) in any way as the fungus penetrates deeply.

Pressure canning will kill fungus, BWB will not and neither does boiling no matter how long you do it. So if you are going to can diseased/damaged tomatoes buy a pressure canner.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 11:27AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

Never can diseased tomatoes. If you insist you eat them, then freeze them. I would throw them away, personally.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 11:40AM
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david52 Zone 6

I would throw them at the stage during a bad melodrama, personally. :-)

This time of year, late in the season, both tomato plants and fruit are getting one disease or another. I have fruit with black spots, some with splotchy colors, a lot that cracked in the rain. There are still plenty out there that are fine, so the only damaged ones I'll use for anything are those that are perfectly fine except for very recent, shallow cracking.

Sick fruit just doesn't taste very good, let alone the risks.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:35PM
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Well, I threw away the worst (moldy spots) but kept the splits, and anything with just small black spots on the skin (not sunken, look like flyspeck on apples). Got 1/2 peck, have them boiling now with 1 Tbsp salt. I'll see what I get after putting them through the mill - DH might just get more fresh juice.

I'm confused about what you can actually can, since Linda Z recommends acidifying if there is any doubt (which I am doubtful of the splits and surface spotting since the leaves are blackened and hanging - it's septoria, late blight, antracnose or all 3). And NCHFP says this about making tomato juice so obviously fruit doesn't have to be absolutely perfect (though I would not can moldy fruit:

"Procedure: Wash, remove stems, and trim off bruised or discolored portions."

I did freeze some split ones at the beginning of the month - will those be OK?

Even the Brandywines I picked at blush are getting small sunken spots - been cutting those out and using for tomato sandwiches, even though I have to throw the top half away since they're not ripe yet.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:59PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I don't know what Linda Z says that you are referring to but I suspect it is taken out of context or mis-understood. Acid is added because tomatoes have to be acidified period. Not because they are diseased or damaged.

If, indeed, she is advocating using disease damaged tomatoes then I'd sure pass on her advice to do so.

And "bruised or discolored portions" does NOT mean "diseased". It just means bruised from a bump of some kind or discolored from uneven ripening, green shoulders, etc. fruit that has been picked from a healthy plant. NCHFP makes it clear that tomatoes from diseased plants should not be canned - added acid or not - and I feel pretty sure that Linda Z also subscribes to that belief.

And just to be clear: when I say "So if you are going to can diseased/damaged tomatoes buy a pressure canner." does not mean I advocate canning them. I don't. All I mean is that if you feel you simply must do it despite the recommendations against it then they should be pressure canned only.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 1:48PM
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After smelling those tomatoes cooking down for the past hour, I decided to have tomato soup for lunch! There wasn't that much after milling anyway - just enough for me and DH.

But for future reference, I figured a picture (or a dozen) was worth 1000 words. Here are the tomatoes with spots I was talking about:

Here are ones that will get thrown in the compost pile (or just pulled up with the plants on the next non-rainy day, the plants are done with):

Split on top of Brandywine - OK to use the bottom of the tomato for canning?

But I'm worried about these I found on the plant today - are any more tomatoes going to be OK off this plant? Doesn't look like rot or disease has penetrated this one

But this one is really worrisome (obviously this one gets thrown away, but I don't even know if it should go in the compost pile or the trash - and what about the plant?).

And here are the leaves of the plants - don't be shocked, it's late in a terrible wet season. But are the green tomatoes from these plants even OK for pickling now? I'm also leaving the Brandywine a few more days hoping to get some more breakers since the green tomatoes look OK.

Plum plant


Glacier (plants are about done for, these will be pulled this week but I want to know if green tomatoes are OK for pickling):

Thanks. Maybe next year will be a better year.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 2:15PM
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david52 Zone 6

I don't know what those tiny black spots are, but they look more like a minor blemish from some bug bite than a disease.

As for the rest and your descriptions, It looks like you know what you're doing.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 7:42PM
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I'm pretty sure they're not bug bites. I'm thinking blight or anthracnose - but if it's only skin-deep, is it OK to peel and can those? I also cooked (but didn't can) the ones with shallow splits that didn't go all the way through the skin. And the BW that had splits on the green tops (like the photo), a few sunken spots but cut WAYYYY around them, couldn't see throwing out the other 1/2 lb of each tomato.

Linda's comment and NCHFP procedure make me question my previous assumption that only "perfect" fruit can be canned. If imperfect can be used, where do you draw the line on imperfections? There are a lot of places selling "seconds" or "canning" tomatoes out there that I wouldn't even consider, my tomatoes (even some I threw out) look better than those, are mine pictured above OK?

Mary Randolph's ketchup recipe did not have any vinegar or sugar. Linda Z says Mary recommended making this vinegar in August (of course this was b4 canning was invented, or at least in home use) so that to avoid the late blight. Linda says if you have any doubt about your tomatoes to add 1/2C vinegar to this recipe and BWB. I had my doubts about this recipe (would add lemon juice to jars per NCHFP if canning), but because of that comment was just wondering if

1. These spots might be late blight or anthracnose and

2. Would additional acid (on top of NCHFP recommendations) really be OK if they were late blight or some other fungal disease, or if using splits? Obviously I would not can anything that was soft/moldy/overripe or if the split was through the skin and showing decomposition around the edges or oozing. I don't Linda is recommending that - just saying that if you even *think* you may have blight to add acid.

Hope that clarifies my questions.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 8:18PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Linda's comment and NCHFP procedure make me question my previous assumption that only "perfect" fruit can be canned.

Anyone "can" (may) can any fruit they find acceptable. The issue is "should" you can them? And the answer to that is It is not recommended.

The photos of your plants show severely diseased plants with both bacterial speck as well as the fungus infections mentioned before. Given the degree of disease in the pictures it would be almost impossible to be getting unaffected fruit from them. But the choice as to whether to can them or not is yours to make.

Adding additional acid to fungi-contaminated food does not kill fungi, neither does boiling and neither does a BWB processing. Only pressure canning can kill fungi.

The proper acid level can stop the growth and production of toxins but it doesn't kill it. And that is only if the pH is sufficiently acidic. So the question for Linda Z would be how does she know that adding 1/2 c of vinegar would be sufficient? If it isn't it only slows the growth and the production of toxins. And since pH doesn't remain stable on the shelf, how would you know if the food was safe or not? Would you be cooking the ketchup again after opening to destroy the toxins? No.

There is no ambiguity to the NCHFP position. It isn't a question of "perfection" in the tomato. Damage from injury, uneven ripening, cat-facing, fused fruit, etc. are all acceptable. Disease is not so the issue is the absence of disease. They make it quite clear:

Selecting, Preparing and Canning Tomatoes


Quality: Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning.

Caution: Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines. Green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit and can be canned safely with any of the following recommendations.

Is salvaging end-of-the-season fruit from plants that are clearly diseased really worth the risk?


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Thanks Dave. I know the Glaciers are done for - I've been throwing away more lately than harvesting (I said I had about 1-2 lbs perfect, and a few more with just some black specks). I think over the course of the season now I've thrown away more than I've harvested.

Glad to know that the black specks are considered diseased and not good for canning (though we will eat the remaining ones on the counter fresh as long as they'll last). I wasn't sure about the "dead vines" line since when I picked them last week the branches they were on were not dead. So the "dead vines" means that if any part of the plant dies an untimely death, don't use *any* of the tomatoes for canning?

What about the cracking BW? Still OK to eat the bottoms (not canned)? I don't know what that rot is on the small one I found yesterday - first time I've seen that.

Won't be many green tomatoes, except for BW's. I understand these will be OK to slice and pickle?

All these plants are going in the trash, not the compost. I also should have been carrying a bucket to put the rejects in instead of throwing them over the fence - going to have to clean up the area.

But I have been putting the split ones and the ones that started getting sunken rotten spots on my counter (even though they looked fine when I picked them) in the compost - have I just ruined next year's compost?

The last time I canned anything from these plants was some hot sauce on 9/4 (and the only other thing was jam on 8/27, haven't canned anything else), and the plants looked much better then having survived the hurricane with just some minor damage, though might have been some spots (I thought Septoria) on some of the leaves at that time, no spots on the tomatoes, is that sauce likely to be OK? Will I be able to tell if it's going bad? Or is there potential for botulism due to the tomatoes being less acidic than usual b/c plants were already infected? I think they started going downhill after the hurricane 8/27 with 10+ inches of rain and then the 5 inches that followed on the 5th-8th of Sept so I can't really remember exactly how the plants looked before the 4th (I was using tomatoes picked in between those 2 rain events).

Your expertise is very much appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 2:07AM
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Couldn't find any pix of the garden from Sept, here is what it looked like 8/23 before Irene. Tomatoes are in top left corner (I was trying to get pix of peppers) and look very bushy and vigorous. Like I said, I think they started going downhill after Irene, but can't recall if there were any spots on the leaves when I picked the tomatoes I canned on 9/4 a few days after the storm. I think the tomatoes looked fine (just canned what didn't sell at market on 9/2), and I did peel them.

What a difference a month (and 2 ft of rain) makes!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 7:13AM
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david52 Zone 6

Looking at photos of anthracnose on tomatoes, I'm still not sure those tiny black dots are the same thing. I have some tomatoes myself with anthracnose, its pretty obvious. Here, it seems to develop about 3-5 days after the fruit is picked, and where the fruit has been bruised. But in any event, when in doubt, throw it out.

As far as throwing out the diseased tomatoes/contaminating compost. I go on the theory that the spores / bacteria are in my soil anyway, or blow in with the wind, and no way to have a sterile garden environment with no potential disease organisms. I compost all the plant material, diseased or not, and make a good, hot pile which will kill/neutralize the nasty bacteria, then once I've got decent compost, use it back in the garden.

I find the best protection against future disease is a good mulch to keep the soil / microbes from splashing up, along with the normal plant care of good gardening.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:55AM
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Yeah, david, anthracnose is usually the sunken spots (just found 2 plums at bottom of market basket that have it now though they looked fine on Friday). I've had that b4, though not to this extent.

I haven't used those tomatoes (sometimes I'll cut it out and cook or eat fresh, like my heirlooms), I really don't know what the small black spots are since some seem to be sinking but not a lot, and most are just on the skin b/c I don't see anything when I peel them.

And I really don't know what that huge rotten spot on the one small BW was - first time I've seen that kind of damage too. Even though I have mulch down, we lowered the plants down to the ground the day b4 the hurricane to minimize wind damage and I think they came back up with all sorts of fungi.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 10:29AM
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Aha! Found it at Cornell site, it's bacteria canker. Still not sure if tomatoes are OK if peeled? And still looking for the disease that BW has - early blight? I've had EB on leaves b4, but have never seen a fruit affected like this. Then again, we've never had as wet a year as this.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 10:45AM
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