The Great Roma Tomato Challenge of 2018

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This year I decided to grow a bunch of different types of Roma tomatoes in my suburban garden and see which was the best. I chose the cultivars based on experience and legend.  Most people choose their Roma’s for several reasons:

  • It is most often a determinate, which means it puts out a lot of tomatoes at once.
  • It has little seed and juice which makes it good for canning.
  • It has a dense meaty texture good for making sauces and stews.

These three factors make people who like to preserve food very happy.  They want a lot of tomatoes at once, so they can do a big batch of canning. They want little juice and seeds to keep their tomatoes dense in the cans. They also want a good texture for the eventual use in cooking.  

I planted the following 6 Roma type varieties this year. 

  • Heinz
  • Martino’s Roma
  • San Marzano
  • Red Italian Pear
  • Amish Paste
  • 10 Fingers of Naples

It is now midsummer, and the results are in.  Roma’s mature quickly so even though the summer is still going the results are in.  As short maturing tomatoes they are about done their production in my neck of the woods.    

Results from Worst to Best:   

San Marzano:  This is a legendary tomato.  Most people have heard of this one and some very talented Italian chefs I know swear by them.  Unfortunately, this plant put out some nice green leaves and then quickly got a disease and died.   I was rather sad to see it go because I really wanted to see how it did. I may try it again next year just to see if this was a fluke. 

Red Italian Pears: This tomato was a big favorite of mine last year.  This year’s plant did not do anywhere near as well as last year’s.  I know it was partly location in the garden, but I was disappointed with the overall yield.  Last year it seemed to do very well and put out a nice great big Roma style tomato.  This tomato will be worth another try.

10 Fingers of Naples: This plant did well in the garden, but the problem is that it is a cherry tomato. It put out some nice Roma’s, but the size is just too small to make a real dent in your canning needs.   They taste lovely and have a nice show but are better suited for salads.

Amish Paste: The Amish Paste is a hardy tomato and one that does well in my microclimate.  It is also an indeterminate, so it puts out tomatoes slowly over the season. While the tomatoes are tasty they are not as useful for a large canning effort.  I enjoy them and appreciate how hardy they are. 

Heinz: This tomato took a while to come on. Three of the four plants did not make it.  The final plant did make it and put out a decent size yield as it matured. It was a small bush with smallish fruit.  The meat was dense and there was very low seed count.  Once it got established it did well and put out a decent tomato.

Martino’s Roma: This is the big winner of this years Roma Challenge.  I planted two of these great tomatoes in my garden. We got the seeds from ‘Seeds of Italy’ and the plants grew strong and well.  I put the plants in very nice spot in the garden.  This Roma grew different from any tomato I have seen before.  Most tomatoes have a main stock and have lots of off shoots from that main stock.  This tomato seemed to flatten out at the bottom and shoot up four equal shoots each spiraling up as they grew. The plant took on a tower shape instead of a lanky bush.  The tomatoes were so abundant that I was scared for the weight on the limbs.  But they spiral seemed to give it great strength. 

The bushes put out the hugest yield of Roma’s I had ever grown.   It took the plant about a month to turn all it’s tomatoes red.  The flavor was good, and they canned up very well.  They created a dense meat and filled many jars.  The Martino’s Roma was a great discovery and was be a vital part of my tomato yield.

This year’s Roma Challenge ended with the Martino’s Roma as the winner and my canning cupboard getting a hardy boost.   This tomato will get an automatic spot in my seed collection, my online seed store, our plant nursery farmers market booth and my future suburban gardens.

Stay tuned for the results of the cherry tomato Challenge coming soon.   

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.