Paste Tomatoes

They're bigger and better than ever.

By Doug Oster

Photography by Christa Neu

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Sauce in 6 Minutes

One of the easiest, freshest sauces starts with minced garlic added to one to two tablespoons of hot extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté for about a minute, then carefully pour in a half-cup of cold stock. Add chopped paste tomatoes—no need to peel them first—season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add two handfuls of chopped basil, and serve immediately over pasta. It's a heavenly summer dish that showcases the power of fresh organic produce.

Avoiding Blossom-End Rot

Although paste tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, one problem that plagues many varieties is a susceptibility to blossom-end rot. The disease is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant and characterized by a dry, sunken black lesion on the underside of the tomato where the flower was. It often starts when the tomato is green and eventually makes the fruit inedible.

To avoid blossom-end rot, be sure to keep the soil evenly moist. The calcium is often in the soil, but the plant fails to take it up due to extreme fluctuations of soil moisture. Blossom-end rot often occurs after periods of dry weather followed by downpours, or vice versa. The plants need 1 inch of water per week if rain is scarce.

Prevention is the key: Keep plants mulched with a thick layer of organic matter. Straw is a good choice, as it's cheap and easy to find. Often only the first flush of fruit is affected by blossom-end rot, and as the season progresses, newer tomatoes will be fine.

Keep Reading: How to Grow the Best Tomatoes.

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