As its name implies, sun-dried tomatoes are tomatoes that are preserved by drying out in the sun until they shrivel, change their color, and concentrate their flavors. Sun-dried tomatoes are a staple in Italian cuisine. It is part of an ancient summertime tradition where families would gather plum tomatoes and place them on their rooftops to capture the intense heat of the Italian sun. The result would then make Pomodori Secchi, an intensified dried tomato with a darker color and chewier texture and a sweeter and tarter flavor combination.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Trivia
- Tomatoes are composed of 93% water. Due to their high moisture levels, it would take at least 7-10 days to dry them under the sun. Tomatoes shrink a lot, so it would take 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes to make 1 pound of sun-dried tomatoes.
- Sun-dried tomatoes are an Italian staple. Families would often dry tomatoes in tile roofs to preserve them for winter.
- Red plum tomatoes and Roma tomatoes are the varieties commonly used for sun-dried tomatoes.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Buying Guide
It’s always best to choose the sun-dried tomatoes produced in small batches by artisan makers. Tomatoes are key in making high-quality sun-dried tomatoes. Only those handpicked and examined are dried before they can be included in the batch. Thus, it’s best to source sun-dried tomatoes in production facilities that still deploy traditional production methods such as harvesting, selecting, and drying before proceeding to the bottling process.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Production & Farming in Texas
Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow and harvest since they can be grown in small pots and still grow a decent number of fruits. Once you have turned your balcony into a mini garden or have a small tomato patch in your yard, the best part of it is eating freshly harvested tomatoes which are so sweet and plump, unlike the lifeless tomatoes at the grocery stores. They must be grown in sunny areas because they love the heat and would die in the winter, unable to tolerate frost and cold weather.
In fact, tomatoes are one of Texas’ most popular products. Texas farmers and gardening enthusiasts have successfully grown both small fruit and large fruit tomatoes. Small fruit varieties include Juliet, Small Fry, Cherry Grande, Red Cherry, and Baxter’s Early Bush. On the other hand, big fruit varieties include Homestead, Better Boy, Celebrity, Big Beef, Carnival, Big Box, & Bush Beefsteak.
Preservatives and Chemicals
Sun-dried tomatoes mostly have artisan labels and homemade packaging styles that consumers would automatically assume all are free from chemicals and preservatives. However, that is not always the case. Ever since man discovered the efficiency of pesticides and fertilizers, farming has never been the same. Farmers would almost rely on them to increase production and minimize crop damage.
Fertilizers and pesticides containing Nitrogen, Phosphorus Pentoxide, and Potassium Oxide have been sprayed into the crops which lead to water contamination, soil damage, and human toxicity. This significant environmental impact still causes concern for environmentalists as tomatoes are produced in large quantities.
Sun-dried tomatoes are packaged in two ways: dry-packed and oil-packed. Dry-packed tomatoes have the same gooey texture and concentrated flavors as dried fruit. They’re also sealed in foil packages or pouches. On the other hand, oil-packed tomatoes are submerged in olive oils along with other natural flavorings including garlic and herbs.
Enjoying Sun-Dried Tomatoes
One can never underestimate the power of sun-dried tomatoes. They’re the perfect blend of rich and concentrated tomato flesh and juices, packed with the smoothness of both sweet and savory flavor notes.
Traditional Caprese Salad consisting of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil topped with capers can be even enhanced by adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes. They can also be added into artisan-made focaccia bread to highlight the artisan ingredients and methods that are the trademarks of focaccia.
Sun-dried tomatoes can also be added to homemade pasta sauces for the added kick of flavor and into a vinaigrette to intensify the earthy aromas.
Sun-dried tomatoes can be packed in Ziplock plastic bags, airtight plastic containers, and glass jars. Unopened jars or pouches can be stored at room temperature for six to nine months. However, they should be refrigerated and frozen once opened. Oil-packed tomatoes with other additional ingredients should be refrigerated and consumed within two weeks once opened.
SPAGHETTI WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES AND SPINACH
12 oz. Barilla Spaghetti
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8.5 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil with herbs, chopped, oil drained and reserved
1 Tbsp minced garlic
8 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup pine nuts
- Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain while reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Once the spaghetti is about halfway cooked through, heat oil from a sun-dried tomato jar in a large pot over medium heat (there should be 1/4 cup, if needed use some olive oil).
- Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add spinach and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté until just spinach wilts about 2 minutes.
- Toss drained spaghetti into a pot with spinach. Thin with pasta water as needed, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss in basil and parmesan. Serve warm topping each serving with pine nuts and parmesan.