Photos courtesy of Doreen Howard.
The press release first showed up in March touting the virtues of a new tomato raisin. I barely gave it a look, as I receive hundreds of press releases via -mail and snail mail, due to my job as a plant prognosticator.
I test plants a year or two before they reach the market in my job as a garden writer.
Then a scrawny tomato plant showed up in early June. I added it to the tomato bed, along with the bevy of heirlooms I usually grow. And I finally read the press release.
Tommacio, which will be in stores next spring, is a thick-skinned cherry tomato that dries easily, according to its US. distributor, C. Raker and Sons. The resulting tomato raisin is a sweet gourmet treat, they said, that can be eaten out of hand like other dried fruit.
I had my doubts, but any tomato that produced this summer was a winner, as far as I’m concerned, given the constant rain and chilly temperatures. Actually, this has been the year without summer where I live in the Upper Midwest.
Tommacio produced as promised , even though the heirlooms struggled with blight and lack of heat. I was impressed and eager to make tomato raisins using the instructions in the press release.
The little cherry has a thick skin with large pores, traits perfect for drying, according to the Israeli breeders who spent 12 years creating Tommacio using a wild Peruvian species. No wonder it liked the cold nights this summer!
Leaving tomatoes on the vine to dry is the easiest way, but I was impatient, and the continual rain promised rot rather than air drying. So I used the alternate instructions on how to dry the little tomatoes in the oven. (
The first hint that I was in trouble was the statement that Tommacio could be easily dried in the oven at 100 degrees F. (38 degrees C) for three hours. My oven dial starts at 150 degrees F. (65 C). I dug out an oven thermometer to determine if I could achieve the lower temperature by setting the dial to “Warm.”
It didn’t happen; the thermometer still read 150. I figured that if I dried the tomatoes for a shorter period at 150 dgrees, rather than at 100, I’d achieve the same results.