Paste Tomatoes

They're bigger and better than ever.

By Doug Oster

Photography by Christa Neu

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'Amish Paste' is widely popular and is really more of a dual-purpose tomato, as it's rather juicy and the flavor is outstanding. This variety pumps out lots of 4-to-6-ounce red fruits through the summer. Tom Hauch from Heirloom Seeds was one of the first to commercialize 'Amish Paste' after encountering it on an Amish-run farm near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Some believe the variety originated in Wisconsin, but it's hard to say for sure. Hauch isn't a huge paste tomato fan, favoring the taste of slicing tomatoes over most sauce varieties. In fact, when making sauce, he'll incorporate 'Red Brandywine' or another favorite heirloom to give it the desired flavor. Although it takes longer to cook down, he prefers the taste.

'Opalka', an heirloom originating in Poland, is prized for its flavor. It's a true paste tomato, very meaty, and sweeter than 'Amish Paste'. It offers a very thin skin and is deep red with an elongated shape, making it almost pepperlike in appearance. Some fruits will reach 6 inches in length. The plant is vigorous, growing 6 feet or higher with wispy foliage.

'Super Italian Paste' is a big tomato, sometimes reaching up to 1 pound. It's meaty and sweet, with irregular pear-shaped fruits. This one is good for canning, purees, and sauces, and will stand a long time after picking.

'Polish Linguisa' is an heirloom from the early 1800s. The big, 10-to-12-ounce bright red tomatoes are sausage-shaped, meaty, and sweet, in the mold of a traditional paste tomato. This tomato is wonderful diced and added to fresh salads.

'Heidi', an heirloom from Africa, produces 2 1/2-inch, flavorful tomatoes over a long season. Good for canning or eating fresh, it puts on tons of stubby, pear-shaped, thick-walled, elongated fruits. 'Heidi' was given to respected tomato maven Carolyn Male, Ph.D., author of 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, by a student from Cameroon. •

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