Paste Tomatoes

They're bigger and better than ever.

By Doug Oster

Photography by Christa Neu


'Jersey Giant' continues the theme of the huge paste tomato. The thick-fleshed, large, long, tapered pepperlike tomatoes are prolific, need support, and have a sweet old-fashioned flavor that gardeners rave about. This heirloom tomato was headed for extinction until Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds rescued it from a failing North Carolina seed company. "They are firm like a paste tomato but have the full, rich, beefsteak tomato flavor," Gettle says.

'Roman Candle' has an unusual, medium yellow skin with yellow stripes and pale yellow flesh. Inside, it's smooth and creamy, with a wonderful fragrance and sweet flavor. 'Roman Candle' is meaty and dry, in a good way. "You can just take it out of the garden and eat it," Gettle says.

'San Marzano Redorta', named for a mountain in Italy, is TomatoFest owner Gary Ibsen's favorite paste tomato out of the 50 or so he grows. It's another big, fat, plum-shaped tomato he claims is better tasting than the classic 'San Marzano', and, at 12 ounces, is twice the size. Plants produce heavily. Ibsen recommends eating this variety freshly picked in the summer sun; it's also good for sauce or drying. He has a hard time keeping these precious seeds in stock. "It's a wonderful old heirloom variety," he says.

'Carol Chyko's Big Paste' might be the biggest paste tomato on the market. Fruits of this heart-shaped heirloom weigh up to 3 pounds. "It's great sliced up for sumptuous sandwiches," Ibsen says, "and a delicious choice for sauces and canning."

'Rocky' is another huge—up to 1 pound—heirloom tomato with the old-fashioned, full tomato flavor gardeners love. The fruits are 6 inches long, fat, yet elongated, finishing in a point. Ibsen doesn't sell a lot of seed of the variety because it's not well known. He recommends it highly, however; it contains all the qualities that deserve a place in the garden.