One of the primary reasons I garden is to fill my pantry with canned fruits and vegetables that are (almost*) free of bpa and pesticides. Of all the different things I preserve, tomatoes are far and away the most-used ingredients in my household; it seems I’m constantly pulling a jar of some sort of tomato product or another out of the pantry. In previous years, it’s been pints and quarts that I put up from our big California garden. I ran out of the canned goods I brought with me when we moved some time ago and I’m reduced to buying canned tomatoes – it’s killing me. (And yes, the movers DID think I was nuts. But I needed the jars; why not bring them full?)
As the time for planting a garden nears, I’m gearing up to once again fill my pantry with tomatoes from the garden. In the past, I’ve planted as many as 40 tomato plants in a season and always had plenty for me as well as lots to share, but my space wasn’t nearly as limited. Here on this small lot where (ironically) full sun is scarce, there’s not room to wantonly plant excess. I need to know – roughly – about how many tomato plants will yield enough fruit to fill my larder.
I know that yields will depend upon the variety of tomato as well as the weather and my general success, but this page about preserving tomatoes says:
One bushel of fresh tomatoes weighs 53 pounds and yields approximately 18 quarts of canned tomatoes or 15 to 18 quarts of juice. Approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes makes 1 quart of canned tomatoes.
Past experience in a hot summer region leads me to believe that a single tomato plant can yield as much as 20-30 pounds per season. Since I’m gardening in a region that’s new to me and notorious for being hard to grow tomatoes in, let’s assume I can get 10-15 pounds of tomatoes from each plant. This is nothing but a wild guess, but we’ve got to start somewhere, right?
In a year’s time, my family of four (including two teenage boys) will eat:
- 26 quarts of pizza sauce (in 52 pint sized jars)
- 24 quarts of marinara sauce
- 36 quarts of salsa (I use salsa in chili recipes and Mexican dishes in addition to serving it with chips)
That’s 86 quarts of tomatoes (more or less, as there will be other ingredients tossed in with the tomatoes).
In order to stock my pantry with the tomato products we eat regularly, I’ll need to grow 258 pounds of tomatoes. That means I’ll need between 17-25 tomato plants in order to accommodate my family’s needs.
I don’t have room for that many tomato plants, but I’m told that with the mild weather here in Hawaii, I can get two or three crops a year. Which begs the question: if I can grow so many tomato crops in a season, do I really need to preserve so much? Maybe I can get by with fresh tomatoes for some of my cooking needs. We’ll see how this plays out!
Do you grow tomatoes? Do you calculate how many plants you’ll need or just plant and hope for the best?
*There is BPA in the canning lids manufactured by Ball/Jardin. Tattler makes BPA-free reusable lids, but they are plastic, and I’m not convinced that they won’t leak something just as damaging as BPA. Weck makes beautiful glass jars with glass lids that are probably worth investing in, a few at a time.