i say plum and paste tomatoes

IMG_8629 Visual only! Don’t even dream of canning these wonderful ‘Ananas Noire’ tomatoes on view at the farmers market last Saturday at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Oasis.

IMG_8624 These guys?  Probably not.  Very much slicers, too, in my book.

Paste tomatoes are the bane of the gardener/canner’s existence, I’m feeling more and more.  They taste bad, they’re prone to blossom-end rot, and they take forever to ripen.  I’ve tried a number of varieties, always seeking that nirvana of good flavor and robust health, but every one seems to have its significant downside.  Every year I end up supplementing my significant acreage (ok, one super long row) with purchased plum tomatoes.

IMG_8620Plums are gorgeous and long-lived when they’re grown properly, especially the new striped and black hybrids, but the taste doesn’t advance beyond mediocre.  Although I strongly disapprove of adding bottled lemon juice when processing tomatoes, I kind of think it doesn’t matter when you’re using plums, since there’s no flavor to begin with.  Regular ‘Roma’ tomatoes are useless, and ‘San Marzanos’ are particularly awful here in the Willamette Valley.  People insist on buying them, since they are the Italian variety everyone knows as quality, but they just taste like cardboard in and out of the jar.

IMG_8619So what’s a local girl to do?  Keep searching for better varieties for our region.  I grew ‘Saucey’ for several years.  In 2014 my biggest success is a grafted plant of ‘Jersey Devil,’ which may be a new offering from Log House this year. They have a very pleasant little tail at the end and turn bright red, just like Satan.  They didn’t crap out like my highly anticipated ‘Orange’ and ‘Black Icicles’.

But paste tomatoes, in my opinion, are better than plums, but still prone to diva behavior.  They’re the ones that are not necessarily elongated and hollow/seedy in the middle, but may be more heart-shaped and solid flesh with very few seeds.  They will be a bit more liquidy at first than plums, but cook down nicely and produce a much more flavorful sauce.  I’ve posted many times about ‘Amish Paste,’ so I won’t go into it here, but the 1-pound tomatoes I get from the good strain of this plant (i.e., not the small tomato strain), are excellent.  Farmer Anthony Boutard recommended it to me several years ago, and he’s since moved on to his own ‘Astiana’ line plucked from a market in the Piedmont region of Italy.  I’ve yet to haul my preoccupied behind up to Hillsdale to get in on some of that ‘Astiana’ action.

IMG_8623Heart-shaped, solid tomatoes are also good for sauce.  One possibility for me this year might be these ‘Reif Red Hearts’, spotted last weekend next to the ‘Ananas Noires’. They look quite promising indeed as a sauce tomato, from what I’ve read on the internets.

IMG_8618As for local plums, and there are better varieties than ‘San Marzano,’ like ‘Scipio’, which was good last year from Sweetwater Farm, and these fat and gorgeous ‘Opalka’ plums from Mountain View Farm in Junction City.

Another possibility to consider are the good ol’ round canning tomatoes, like the all-purpose Moskovich, again from Ruby and Amber’s stand at the market.

IMG_8625What varieties are you picking, buying, and canning this year?


10 thoughts on “i say plum and paste tomatoes

  1. penny 30 August 2014 / 9:28 am

    Sweet Leaf grows a heirloom paste tomato we got from an old Italian man in Canastota N.Y. over ten years ago. They are large , meaty, ugly, and have very few seeds. Great for drying and sauce. Not quite ready yet…and they tend to get bought up on special orders because enough people know about them.


  2. Eugenia 30 August 2014 / 9:40 am

    What are they called, Penny? Sounds like a good possibility.


  3. Liz Lawrence 30 August 2014 / 9:44 am

    We planted Ropreco tomatoes from Adaptive Seeds this year – highly recommended. Just as the description says, they are very productive with no blossom end rot. We have probably harvested 20+lbs with lots more on the way. I made paste this week using your slow roast method, and it’s delicious.

    Seeds: https://www.adaptiveseeds.com/productdisplay/tomato-ropreco


  4. penny 30 August 2014 / 12:43 pm

    We have had much discussion on the name. One tomato given to my friend Ananda 15 years ago. It was as big as a nerf football and had less than ten seeds. She calls them “Old World Paste Tomato” after our farm “Old World Veggies”( and the large Italian population in Canastota N.Y.) Some refer to them as ‘big ugly paste tomato’ I call them ‘old man maters’. I haven’t seen others like them.


  5. Eugenia 30 August 2014 / 1:08 pm

    Whoa. I’d really love to try one, Penny. And one of yours too, Liz!


  6. Robin S 30 August 2014 / 9:19 pm

    Polish Linguisa is a large paste tomato with good flavor, but hard to find. I’ve grown it somewhat successfully in the Portland metro area.


  7. lafermedelavallee29450 9 September 2014 / 4:59 am

    I’m definitely with you on this one… though here in france I am having a hard time explaining that there are actually tomatoes bred for saucemaking! We grow a few different paste varieties, but I never have enough to make everything we need for us and for market. This year I tried to order some from our organic veggie wholesaler and when I went to pick them up I was horrified to see that they ordered me 80kg of beef tomatoes. I made only about 10L yesterday from 54kg! I’m ashamed really. My 20kgs of Rio grandes would probably make just as much.


  8. lafermedelavallee29450 9 September 2014 / 5:02 am

    I would like to add that for heirloom varieties, I think that the Andine Cornue are a wonderful sauce tomato, and also happen to be delish fresh, and for most everything really. I am actually kind of bummed that our clients like them fresh because I haven’t had enough to make huge batches of stuff with them yet.
    Anyway. Great posts, as always.


  9. lafermedelavallee29450 9 September 2014 / 5:03 am

    Oh and one more thing…. blossom end rot can be effectively prevented with added calcium. We use the algae Lithomine .


  10. Dan 8 September 2015 / 12:36 pm

    I’m loving Coure Di Bue paste tomato, it’s available from Territorial Seed. A It’s very similar to the description of the Astiana but I’ve not done a direct comparison. Tastes great, suffers from a little cat facing but I’ve had no blossom end rot.


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