I love the fresh tomatoes we get from our garden every year. There is nothing quite like the taste of a ripe tomato that you picked that day. Our problem, if you can call it a problem, is that we always plant too many tomato plants.

The bounty of tomatoes we harvest is overwhelming. 

Half of yesterday's harvest of tomatoes.

Half of yesterday's harvest of tomatoes.

What to do with all these tomatoes is something we struggle with every year. We have successfully experimented with freezing whole tomatoes. And I have made batches of pasta sauce and ketchup, which we then preserve through the standard canning process.

But I have recently been reading about the natural process of fermentation as a better way to preserve food. The problem with canning is that you need to heat the food to kill any pathogens that might be present. You essentially pasteurize the food, which renders it safe (mostly) but also kills most of the good nutrients. While it tastes good, the nutrient value of homegrown organic produce is rendered moot.

Fermentation, on the other hand, is a natural process which actually enhances the nutritional content of the food you ferment. And it is safer than canning.

As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables.
— Fred Breidt, US Dept. of Agriculture

So...fermentation is safer than canning, nutritionally enhancing, and a flavor enhancer. Hmmm...maybe I should try this.

Conserva Cruda Di Pomodoro

This recipe, which uses wild fermentation, has been used for hundreds of years in Italy. It is incredibly simple - and the result is a tomato paste that can be kept without refrigeration for use throughout the winter.

Basically, you chop up a bunch of tomatoes, put them in a container and squeeze them (or mash them) to get the juice out. Then you let it sit for 4, 5 or up to 7 days while it bubbles away and ferments. You have to stir it a couple of times a day to keep the mold from forming on the top. 

Once it has stopped fermenting you strain out the liquid, seed and skins. Then you take the resulting solids and compress them into a paste. After adding some salt to the resulting paste you have a concentrated tomato product just waiting to be added to all sorts of food dishes.

I must admit, I have a hard time believing this science experiment will work as advertised. But I am going to give it a try.

Here is my first batch of tomatoes ready to begin the magical fermentation process.

Here is my first batch of tomatoes ready to begin the magical fermentation process.

Wish me luck. I will report back in a few days as this process continues.