One of the primary reasons I garden is to fill my pantry with canned fruits and vegetables that are free of bpa and pesticides. Of all the different things I preserve, tomatoes are far and away the most-used garden ingredient in my household; it seems I’m constantly pulling a jar of some sort of tomato product or another out of the pantry.
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 this year, I’m gardening in a new locale and in a much smaller space. Here on this small lot where full sun is scarce, there’s not room to wantonly plant excess. I need to know – roughly – how many tomato plants will yield enough fruit to fill my cupboards.
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
- 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 for a year.
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, giving me access to fresh fruit, do I really need to preserve so much?
For now, I’ve got a dozen plants in the ground. Now if only the weather would cooperate!