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Paste Tomatoes for Home Gardens

Tomato San Marzano
San Marzano Tomato
San Marzano Tomato

Paste tomatoes have a meaty texture and concentrated flavor. They are also known as “sauce,” “pear,” “plum,” “saladette,” “Roma,” and “Italian.”

Use paste tomatoes for cooking sauces, juicing, drying, or eating fresh sliced in salads or on the side.

Paste tomatoes come in a variety sizes—from an inch or two long to large 2-pound fruits. They can be pear-shaped, heart-shaped (called “oxheart”), elongated—like a banana pepper, or large and lumpy. What paste tomatoes have in common is that they are meaty and have fewer seeds and less juice than other tomatoes.

Grow paste tomatoes much like other tomatoes: plant in full sun; add lots of compost to the planting bed; set transplants out when the soil has warmed to at least 60°F; protect young plants from cool nights; feed plants with fish emulsion or kelp meal every 10 days or so.

Where the season is short or cool, grow determinate varieties; where the season is long, grow indeterminate vining varieties.

Here are several paste tomatoes that perform well in home gardens:

  • Amish Paste: open-pollinated; indeterminate; heart-shaped red, about 8 ounces; 82 days to maturity.
  • Black Plum: open-pollinated; indeterminate; plum-shaped mahogany, 2-3 inches long; 75-80 days to maturity.
  • Heidi: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red, round to heart-shaped; 75-80 days to maturity.
  • Italian Gold: hybrid; determinate; golden, plum-shaped; 70 days to maturity.
  • La Roma Rossa: hybrid; determinate; red, pear-shaped to 4 inches; 78 days to maturity.
  • Martino’s Roma: open-pollinated; determinate; red, pear-shaped, 2 ounces; 75-80 days to maturity.
  • Myona: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red, pepper-shaped to 4 inches long; 80-95 days to maturity.
  • Opalka: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red-orange, pepper-shaped; 75-85 days to maturity.
  • Orange Banana: open-pollinated; indeterminate; orange, banana shaped to 3 inches long; 85 days to maturity.
  • Plum Dandy: hybrid; determinate; red, plum-shaped to 6 ounces; 75-80 days to maturity.
  • Plum Lemon: open-pollinated; indeterminate; yellow, lemon-shaped; 81 days to maturity.
  • Powers Heirloom: open-pollinated; indeterminate; yellow, oblong-shaped, 85 days to maturity.
  • Ropreco Paste: open-pollinated; indeterminate; open-pollinated; determinate; red, pear-shaped to 3 inches long: 70 days to maturity.
  • Rocky: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red, oxheart to plum shape to 6 inches long; 95-105 days to maturity.
  • Roma: open-pollinated; determinate; red, pear-shaped to 3 inches long; 80-85 days to maturity.
  • Russian 117: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red, oxheart shaped to 2 pounds; 80-90 days to maturity.
  • San Marzano: open-pollinated; indeterminate; red, pear-shaped to 3 inches long; 80 days to maturity.
  • San Remo Paste: hybrid; indeterminate; red, oblong-shaped to 5 inches long; 76 days to maturity.
  • Verna Orange: open-pollinated; indeterminate; orange, oxheart-shaped to 1 pound; 84 days to maturity.
  • Viva Italia: hybrid; determinate; red, pear-shaped; 80 days to maturity.
  • Yellow Bell Paste: open-pollinated; indeterminate; yellow, long pear-shaped; 60 days to maturity.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. I didn’t get a good crop of San Marzano tomatoes last year they were planted in large pails with drainage holes at the base . Too small , cracked and more black than red . I would like to try it again this year … Any tips would be great ! …

    • Cracking tomatoes– this is a sign of irregular water takeup by the plant once the fruit has formed; the plant goes dry and then is overwatered; the water rushes to the fruits and the fruit breaks as a balloon might. Make sure you are using a good commercial organic planting mix, that your containers are very well-drained–water does not collect at the bottom; then use a moisture meter to know when the soil is dry and you should water–the moisture meter will take the guesswork out of watering a container. Feed the plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 10 days.

    • Tomato paste is made from what are commonly called “paste tomatoes”; these are tomatoes with thick walls that can stand up to cooking. Good paste tomato varieties include ‘Amish Paste’, ‘Big Mama’, ‘Ace 55’, ‘San Marzano’, ‘Juliet’ ‘Long Tom’, and ‘Corne des Andes’.

  2. Do you know of a source for San Remo paste tomato seed. I last got them from Marianna’s but they are not answering and snail mail order was returned. Thanks.

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