What's a Tomato Paste Plant?

Home gardens, farmers’ markets and supermarket produce shelves overflow today with a dizzying array of tomatoes, from rainbow heirloom to beefsteak to bite-size grape and cherry varieties. One special type of tomato is that the paste variety, which also may be called Italian or plum tomatoes. Traditionally, glue tomato crops are developed for processing, but today, their fruit has evolved into a tastier tomato liked fresh from the vine.

About Paste Tomatoes

Paste tomatoes have also traditionally been used for maintaining because they have a dry, meaty flesh and less juicy seed gel, with few or no seeds, making their processing easier than for other tomato varieties. Tomato paste plants produce a fruit that is typically elongated and plum or pear-shaped. The paste tomato plants themselves are typically briefer than other tomato types, and determinate cultivars produce prolific numbers of adult fruit in 70 to 80 days. This is an extra advantage for maintaining and processing paste tomatoes, which can be best done in large batches.

Common and Recommended Varieties

Of all of the paste tomato plant varieties, “Roma” is among the most popular conventional paste cultivars. This classic paste tomato is developed on a compact vine that creates 3-inch-long, plum- or pear-shaped red fruit. The Italian “San Marzano” is another famous glue tomato variety, and some think its 3 1/2-inch-long fruit surpasses the “Roma” as much as full-flavored taste is concerned. “Amish Paste” tomato plants are grown in the United States for over a hundred years, producing deep red fruits that aren’t overly acidic. Past the common red paste tomatoes are the “Tangerine Mama” and “Golden Mama” varietiesthat produce a mild sweet lemon juice. Other noted paste tomato varieties include “Mama Leone,” “Jersey Devil,” “Russian Big Roma,” “Viva Italia” and “Principe Borghese.”

Growing at Home

Paste tomato plants can be grown in home gardens like any other tomato variety. If you’re sowing from seed, plant indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. After any chance of frost has passed, young plants may be put outside in soil mixed with compost. Tomatoes are generally sun-loving, warm-weather plants, however, the paste varieties “Mama Leone” and “San Marzano Redorta” are flowers which grow well in foggy, cooler spaces. Indeterminate varieties like the “Jersey Devil” and “Russian Big Roma” will likely require staking, caging or use of a trellis for extra support. Glue tomato plants require regular watering, about 1 inch of water per week, to ensure healthy growth and development of fruit.

Use in Cooking

Fruit from paste tomato plants have many uses in the kitchen. Whole or crushed paste tomatoes are maintained to be used in making salsa and chili or chili sauces over winter. Paste tomatoes may also be used to make ketchup or tomato paste, which is frozen as opposed to canned. The “Principe Borghese” assortment is just a paste tomato that is more commonly maintained by drying as opposed to canning, and others like “Big Mama” have deep flavors for use as slices in salads.

See related