Tomato leaves are often overlooked and discarded, but they can actually be quite useful in a variety of surprising ways. Here are some uses for tomato leaves that you may not have considered before
The season for harvesting tomatoes is here, providing us with an abundance of one of the world’s most beloved fruits (or vegetables, depending on your preference) to enjoy.
If you’ve been trimming your tomato plants during the season, you may have pondered if the pruned leaves could serve a purpose. Alternatively, you may have been steering clear of them, thinking they contain toxins.
However, there are numerous applications for tomato leaves, both in the garden and the kitchen. Give these suggestions a try or brainstorm your own ideas to promote a garden and kitchen with minimal waste.
Before You Start
Before trying out any of these uses, particularly the recipes, it’s essential to be aware of the concern regarding toxins in tomato leaves. Tomatoes leaves contain alkaloids tomatine and solanine, which are also present in various other members of the nightshade family, including potatoes.
These compounds are deemed harmful to humans when ingested in large quantities, raising doubts about whether tomato leaves are edible at all.
However, negative effects from consuming tomato leaves are unlikely for most people, as one would need to consume a significant amount of them. Additionally, these alkaloids are present in green tomatoes, which are frequently eaten and used in various recipes.
Some individuals may be more sensitive to these alkaloids than others, so it’s wise to exercise caution. If you’ve experienced issues consuming green or ripe red tomatoes in the past, it’s best to avoid tomato leaves. Otherwise, consuming them in small amounts is generally considered safe.
9 Uses For Tomato Leaves
1/Natural insect repellent
Tomato leaves contain alkaloids that are toxic to many insects, including aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. To make an insect repellent spray, steep a handful of tomato leaves in a liter of water overnight. Strain the mixture and then spray it on your plants.
Tomato leaves have a slightly bitter, herbaceous flavor that can enhance the taste of soups, stews, and sauces. Just be sure to remove the leaves before serving, as they can be tough and fibrous.
The leaves of the tomato plant contain essential oils that have a fresh, invigorating scent. You can use them to make a DIY air freshener by simmering a handful of leaves in a pot of water on the stove.
Tomato leaves contain antioxidants and astringent properties that can help improve the appearance of your skin. You can crush a handful of leaves and mix them with a little honey and yogurt to make a natural face mask.
In some cultures, tomato leaves are used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, fever, and headaches. However, it’s important to note that tomato leaves contain solanine, a toxic compound that can cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea if ingested in large amounts.
The initial use, and one commonly chosen by many, is to add the leaves to the compost heap towards the end of the season. Tomato plants, particularly indeterminate varieties, can grow to be quite large, providing an excellent source of nitrogen for compost piles.
Homemade compost is incredibly beneficial for any garden, and incorporating your spent tomato leaves can aid in creating a flourishing and nutrient-rich compost pile.
However, there are some potential risks involved. Since tomatoes are highly susceptible to diseases, it’s crucial to inspect them thoroughly before adding them to the compost pile.
Any illnesses present on the tomatoes have the potential to spread throughout the compost pile and eventually the entire garden.
As long as you’re confident that your tomato leaves are disease-free, you can add them to the compost pile without concern.
Every gardener has faced the frustrating issue of aphids at some point, and they may currently be feeding on your tomato plants. If you haven’t experienced this problem yet, consider yourself fortunate and purchase a lottery ticket immediately.
Aphids are a prevalent pest in vegetable gardens and can cause significant damage to entire crops if not controlled promptly due to their quick reproduction and spread. However, some recommended methods for eliminating aphids are believed to be harmful to other plants in your garden and even the environment.
Fortunately, you can create your own aphid insecticide spray using your leftover tomato leaves that kills these bugs upon contact. Tracey at Rural Sprout provides a simple and quick recipe for insecticide spray, allowing you to have a natural spray at your disposal throughout the entire season. After just 24 hours, you’ll have an effective and eco-friendly spray to combat aphids in your garden.
8/Black Spot Spray
Black Spot is one of the most widespread diseases that affect rose plants. Although not necessarily fatal, this fungal disease can weaken roses and detract from their beauty, a prospect that is unappealing to any rose gardener. If left uncontrolled, the disease spreads quickly, leading to yellowing and defoliation.
Fortunately, there are numerous preventive measures against this common ailment, one of which involves using a tomato leaf spray. The compounds found in tomato leaves are believed to provide some protection against fungal diseases like Black Spot on roses. While the evidence is primarily anecdotal, it’s worth trying if you have excess leaves at your disposal.
Using the same recipe as the aphid spray, apply the tomato leaf spray to the leaves and stems of your roses at the beginning of the season and at regular intervals thereafter. Be sure to apply the spray preventatively, as it won’t control or eliminate Black Spot once it has taken hold.
9/Tomato Infused Olive Oil
Making infused oils has become quite popular lately, and lucky for gardeners, it’s easy and affordable to make your own infused olive oil at home. Tomato leaves are a great ingredient to infuse into olive oil, adding an earthy and slightly tomato-like taste to the oil.
To make the infusion, simply add some tomato leaves to a bottle of olive oil and let it sit for a few weeks. For a stronger flavor, blend the leaves and add them to the olive oil over low heat. Once the oil starts to bubble, remove it from the heat and let it cool. Strain the oil through a cloth and store it in a sealed bottle for later use.
This infused olive oil is perfect for dipping freshly baked bread or adding a hint of tomato flavor to homemade pizzas.
10/Garnish For Stews
Adding the pungent flavor of tomato leaves can enhance the taste of meaty dishes such as stews. These leaves can be dried and added to stews just like other earthy herbs such as rosemary, or they can be finely chopped and used fresh. You can follow Meredith’s guide to drying herbs at home to dry the tomato leaves or use them fresh.
11/Tomato Leaf Pasta
Homemade, hand-rolled pasta with fresh ingredients is unbeatable when it comes to flavor and texture. By incorporating a handful of tomato leaves into the recipe and topping it with freshly roasted tomato sauce, you can create a winning dish that’s perfect for dinner.
12/Tomato Leaf and Mint Sauce
To enhance the tomato flavor of homemade tomato sauce, you can incorporate fresh tomato leaves along with the refreshing taste of mint leaves. This will provide a delightful sweet and acidic taste to any meal, whether it’s used for pasta, as a spread, or a dip for snacks.
You can use Garden Betty’s tasty recipe for homemade tomato sauce, which can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for two weeks, or even frozen for later use.
13/Tomato Leaf Pesto
Moving on to tomato leaf recipes, we begin with the most popular one – pesto.
Tomato leaves have a distinct earthy flavor with a touch of bitterness and spiciness that complements pesto perfectly. This allows you to utilize a large portion of your harvest in one go, creating a delectable spread that will last up to five days in the refrigerator.
14/Tomato Leaf Tea
If you’re a tea lover who enjoys experimenting with unique blends, why not try adding dried tomato leaves to your collection? While not a common practice, it is possible to make tea from tomato plant leaves, whether fresh or dried.
Despite their pungent scent, the taste of tomato leaf tea is surprisingly subtle, according to Lakisha from Saving Greens Homestead. Tomato leaf tea offers a pleasant earthy flavor, similar to that of other leafy green teas.
While tomato leaves may not be a go-to ingredient in the garden or kitchen, their distinctive compounds and flavors offer a variety of uses that will quickly make them a valuable addition to your household.
Overall, tomato leaves have a range of surprising uses that you may not have considered before. Just be sure to use them safely and in moderation, especially if you plan to ingest them or use them on your skin.