Need advice about Roma Tomatoes

TheMasterGardener1(5B)January 18, 2013

I want to grow a large crop of roma tomatoes and I have only grown cherry. In my zone, how many crops can I get? Do I start dome seed in jun to get another fall crop after the one I set out in spring are finishing? Is that the key?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Just to clarify are we talking about true Roma, the variety, or paste tomatoes (which many call roma tomatoes)?

Many paste-type tomatoes (mistakenly called romas) are indeterminate type varieties and will produce all season long until killed by frost or disease.

Roma - the variety - is a determinate type tomato plant which in your zone will produce 1 main crop over a 3-4 week period (depending on growing conditions) and then slowly fade out. You may get a few later tomatoes from the plant if the weather allows but if you want a continuous crop or a true second crop then yes, successive plantings would be the way to go.

If your space allows then you can just plant out new plants approx. 2 weeks apart. But if your space is limited and you will have to be replacing existing plants then start some new seeds about 6 weeks ahead (about the time you have lots of green tomatoes showing on the first plant as they will take about 6 weeks to ripen). Once you have harvested the majority of the ripe fruit from the first plant, rip it out and replace it.

If there are still some green fruit on plant #1 you can hang it upside down by the root ball out of the sun and those will still ripen.

But this is not really the best way to go. Better results would be gained simply by growing some of the indeterminate varieties of paste tomatoes IF paste tomatoes are really what you want. Honestly, many would question why you would want all those Romas as there are so many better tasting paste varieties. But the choice is yours of course.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 1:24PM
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Thnaks for the response! I really like the info.

Yes, I am talking the real Roma. This is my first time growing determinate, as I used to grow cherry tomatoes. I want to grow Roma because they are not all water content like cherry tomatoes. I always never thought to grow them myself, but I want to get into drying. Roma is the best variety to dry I hear due to the low water content. They are in fact a outstanding variety that I always passed by and never thought to grow. I am into the production of it all :)

What would you do? Would grow two harvests or save the trouble and just grow one. I just dont want to harvest them before the season is over and have empty space growing nothing.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 3:19PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

A few years back on GW, there was a member (brokenbar) who had a home business drying tomatoes for sale to local restaurants -- literally tons of fruit. (She may also have sold to farmer's markets; I don't remember.) Unfortunately, she retired from the business, they moved, and she stopped posting (at least in this forum; you might try a general site search for her user-name, to see what's still around).

Since I am interested in drying tomatoes, I kept a list of the varieties she recommended. Besides flavor, her criteria included indeterminate, few seeds, and large fruit. The last two were to reduce the time spent preparing and trimming the fruit. (I don't know if she peeled and/or seeded them. My preference, so far, is to seed but not peel.)

These were her favorites:
= Russo Sicilian Toggeta, aka Russo Sicilian; various spellings (her overall favorite; also good fresh)
= Chinese Giant, which I can't find, and assume is the variety called simply Chinese
= Carol Chyko's Large Paste
= Cuoro Di Toro (there are many varieties with similar names: preferably the true oxhearts?)
= Opalka (also good fresh)
= San Marzano Redorta

She also mentioned growing these every year; some are not pastes, but I believe they were all grown for drying (her husband grew and sold tomatoes which weren't for drying):
= Zapotec Pink Pleated, aka Zapotec
= Long Tom (also good fresh)
= Amish Paste (some like it fresh)
= Mexico
= Baylor Paste
= Beach Boy
= Enormous Plum (also good fresh)
= 1 x 6

She grew smaller amounts of these varieties, as specials; flavors are more piquant, and she charged more for them (I think part of that was small fruit size and/or additional prep time):
= Costoluto Genovese
= Principe Borghese (too small for mass production, but excellent flavor)
= Basinga
= Canestrino
= De Barao Black (also good fresh)
= Federle (also good fresh)
= Pantano Romanesco

These varieties have been suggested by other sources:
= Black Plum
= Cherry Roma
= Green Zebra
= Mexico
= Pompador
= Purple Calabash
= Red Star
= San Marzano

So far whenever I grow a bunch of varieties for dehydrating, it's a Late Blight year, so all I can report is that I dried a bunch of Juliets (had to do something with them). If you don't mind the trouble to quarter and seed them, they're fine (as well as unbelievably prolific and blemishless).

I grew some Romas a couple of years ago. They dried okay, but I wasn't fond of the quality of the fruit, or the determinate aspect. I've also dried various tomatoes which I purchased, which also dried well; some were Roma-shape, others were larger, some very meaty with as many as 6 cells.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 6:36PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Roma is the best variety to dry I hear due to the low water content.

Don't know the source of that info but I sure would have to disagree with it. There are literally hundreds of varieties with low water content that are great for drying and that will result in a higher quality, better tasting dried tomato. Missing listed just a few of them above and some of them are indeterminates and produce all season. Wife and I dehydrate 100's of fruit each year, mostly San Marzano and San Marzano Redorta. But we have also done Belle Star, Speckeled Roman,Italian Red Pear and several of the oxhearts.

What would you do? Would grow two harvests or save the trouble and just grow one.

Personally I wouldn't grow Roma but when I do grow some determinate varieties I go for a second planting for 2 different harvests. But that is easier to do in my zone than in yours.

Just a suggestion but depending on how many plants you have room for why not try at least 3 different varieties and compare for yourself rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. :)


    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 8:15PM
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I too would suggest growing at least 2 varieties and given the zone, would do 1 determinate and 1 indeterminate. That will spread the harvest enough so that you will have ripe fruit the maximum length of time. My suggestions would be Costoluto Genovese for a large tomato that can be dried or made into sauce and Opalka for a dual purpose sauce and slicing tomato. If you want to hedge your bets a bit and have some early fresh fruit, Bloody Butcher would give you a good return.


Here is another post from Brokenbar re drying varieties. This is an updated list from last spring.

"Top 20 for Drying (D)-Sauce(S)-Salsa (SA) IMHO

This is how I use them but most can be used all three ways. I want dry, dry, dry, few seeds, big, meaty. I prefer tomatoes that are more twangy than sweet for drying.

Chinese (D)
Federle (D)
Opalka (D)
Dinofrios German (D)
Romeo (D)
Zapotec (D) (SA)
Big Mama (D Stabilized F8 )
Venetian Marketplace (D-S)
Nile River Egyptian (D)
Russo Sicilian Togeta (D-SA)
Costoluto Genovese (S)
Costoluto Fiorentino (D) (S)
Giant Pepperview (D)
Nick�s (D)
Amish Paste (D)
Super Italian Paste (D)
Chico Grande (D-S)
Seaches Italian (D)
Joe�s Plum (D)
Goldman's Italian American


Wash, stem and slice each tomato into 1/4" thick slices. Keep slices as uniform as possible so they will dry at the same rate.

Place in a very large bowl or clean bucket and cover with cheap red wine. I use Merlot but if you prefer something else, knock yourself out. I have a friend that swears by cheap Chianti! Soak tomato slices 24 hours in the wine. Drain well. You can re-use the wine soak 3 times but then it should be discarded.

Lay tomatoes just touching on dehydrator shelves or on screen in your sun-drying apparatus. Sprinkle each slice with a mixture containing equal parts of dried basil-oregano-parsley and then sprinkle each slice with Kosher Salt and garlic powder. You may choose to fore-go the salt if you wish but tomatoes will take longer to dry.

Dry tomatoes until they are firm and leather-like with no moisture pockets, but NOT brittle. (If you get them too dry, soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes.) To store, place in vacuum bags or ziplock bags and freeze.

IMPORTANT!!! If you will be storing sun-dried tomatoes in Olive oil you !!!MUST!!! dip each slice in vinegar before adding to oil.

To pack in oil:
Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off the excess vinegar and pack them in olive oil adding 1/4 cup red wine. For tomatoes in oil I am selling, I put the tomatoes into the oil two weeks ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil. When the jar is full, cap it tightly. I use my vacuum sealer to seal the canning lids on. Store at *cool* room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at
refrigerator temperatures (it quickly re-liquifies at room temperature however).

As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered. I have stored oil-packed tomatoes in my root cellar for over a year. . I have tried a number of methods to pack the tomatoes in oil, but the vinegar treatment is the difference between a good dried tomato and a great one. It is also important from a food safety standpoint, as it acidifies the oil and discourages growth of bacteria and mold. Soaking in the wine also acidifies them.

****** WARNING ********
Do *NOT* add fresh garlic cloves or fresh herbs of any kind to oil-packed dried tomatoes, UNLESS you store them in the refrigerator and plan on using them within 7 days. Garlic is a low-acid food which, when placed in oil, creates a low-acid anaerobic environment just a perfect growth medium for botulism bacteria if the mixture is not refrigerated. Be safe and add your garlic to the dried tomatoes as part of the recipe for them *after* they come out of the oil. "

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 4:23AM
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Wow everyone has helped so much here! Thanks so much!

The location I will be growing them is along a linked fence about 100 or so feet of row. I will maybe try 2 types that is a great idea. Maybe then in may-june I could just plant anohter row of seeds right along that for the next fall harvest. Yes i used to only grow indterminate but I dont want to do any trellising this year. I do hear that the roma is the lowest water content variety out?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:02PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

While it is true that paste/plum/heart varieties have less water content than other types, studies from Purdue Univ. show that the variance between the varieties in that very large category (of which Roma is only one) is minimal (+/-0.5%) according to nutritional analysis.

Further, most of that variance can be attributed to growing conditions, not the variety itself nor it's size.

Does a large paste variety such as Opalka have more water in it than a small paste variety such as Roma? Sure, but it also has proportionally more meat so it balances it out.

Many others have learned through experience that there are many better varieties than Roma to grow for both sauce making and dehydrating but the only way to determine that for yourself is to grow them and make your own comparisons.

But if you only grow that one variety then you have nothing to compare it to, right? In a 100 foot row you have room to try several different varieties.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Yes true thats why I think I will try two types. You are very right there.

Thanks for the names on those varieties everyone!

I will take your advice and use it well.

This post was edited by TheMasterGardener1 on Sat, Jan 19, 13 at 14:46

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:57PM
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has anybody heard of a tomato called Grovarese?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:47AM
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any thoughts on what might be the best oxhearts for making sauce?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:52AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hi, Keary.

I didn't see any tomato variety name like "Grovarese" in the major databases. And absolutely nothing online with that spelling.

Where did you hear of it? What do you know about it? How certain are you of the spelling?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:11AM
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I got it in a SASE and he said it was an heiRloom tomato he sent it in a little envelope with the spelling on it. I couldnt find anything on it at all on the internet so I was on here looking and thought I would ask.I will have to get back with him and see. Thanks for checking though. If you would like to know when I find out. I will post the answer.
Thanks again

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 5:16PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sounds like a badly mis-spelled Costoluto Genovese which is a heirloom often touted as great for sauce.

any thoughts on what might be the best oxhearts for making sauce?

Honestly i don't think you can go wrong with any of them but Bull's Heart, Kosovo, and Rostova are personal favorites. Anna Russian is another often mentioned.

In other posts here on favorite oxhearts Carolyn has listed
Linnie's Oxheart
Indiana Red
German Red Strawberry


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:36PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Keary, if somebody's handwriting was real bad somewhere along the chain -- and these are the most likely I've found (all open-pollinated)

1. Ventmarin (a French database with nearly 14,000 varieties) has a Genovese (aka Genevese) which they describe as

"Flattened round red fruit. 3 cells. Acid flavor. 65-70 days. Italy." It was listed in an Italian catalog in 1931, which would qualify it as an heirloom in most people's minds.
(Fruit rouge rond aplati. 3 loges. Saveur acide. 65 à 70 jours. Variété originaire d'Italie.)
[Warning: the G's are not in alphabetical order or I might have told you this yesterday; if you don't see it, try your browser's Find option.]

2. An American database which can't be named or linked on GW lists a Genovese Fiorentino, which is described as

a medium-to-large red beefsteak on an indeterminate 6-8' plant; ripens mid- to late-season; used for slicing or salad. A very experienced US gardener who also posts here described it as "a large flat Italian beefsteak."

3. Now, if "Grovarese" is in fact "Genovese" and someone didn't keep good records about the name, another possibility is a much more well-known variety, Costoluto Genovese, here described by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a major seed catalog with nice descriptions and even a photo:

But they don't tell you, so I have to add that it's indeterminate and 78 days.

"Costoluto" is supposed to mean "ribbed" in Italian. There are several varieties that begin with "Costoluto" and apparently come from different regions of Italy.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:54PM
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Hi, I e-mailed him back and he said it was supposed to be spelled crovarese not grovarese. Thanks everyone for the imput and help!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:37PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Okay, I guess I didn't check the C's in Ventmarin.

Ventmarin has it with a cryptic note I've seen before:
Crovarese OP: Variety from Italy registered in the official journal of the European Union (which is called something along the lines of) "The common/joint? catalog of varieties of types of vegetables."

(Crovarese OP Variété originaire d'Italie inscrite au journal officiel de l’Union européenne dans le catalogue commun des variétés des espèces de légumes.)

So it's from Italy, and it's open-pollinated, and it's listed with all the other vegetable cultivars in Europe.

It doesn't appear in the sites where I did check the C's: Tatiana's TOMATObase and the database we can't name.
tells us it's an early cherry (1/2 - 1 oz.) on trusses of 15-30 fruit, red, few seeds, thin skin, indet, 4-6 1/2' tall, keeps well, productive. Photos at the link.

Other sites if you search by name. The vast majority seem to be in French, with the rest in Italian or other European languages.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:31PM
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