Six Tomatoes for Cooking and Preserving

by Seasonal Wisdom on July 21, 2009

‘San Marzano’ paste tomatoes about to ripen.

If you’re craving delicious homemade tomato sauces, pastes, salsas or ketchup — not to mention sun dried tomatoes — look no further than the paste tomatoes.

Beefsteaks, grape and cherry tomato varieties taste delicious in salads and on sandwiches. But when it comes to cooking and preserving, the paste tomatoes are typically the ones to pick.

Paste tomatoes have meatier flesh, fewer seeds and less water than other types. As a result, these varieties create a thicker juice and require less time to cook down to a paste consistency.

Of the many delicious paste tomatoes available, here are six super ones to try:

‘Roma’ – When you say “sauce tomato,” this is what most people hear. The popular heirloom is ideal for cooking and processing. Compact bush plants are prolific producers of 3 inch long fruit that tends to ripen all at once. (Determinate; 78 days)

‘San Marzano’ – In Italy, this heirloom is considered the premier variety for canning, tomato paste or puree. Bright red pear-shaped fruit has little juice and heavy, flavorful walls. Crack resistant, 2 to 3 inch tomatoes grow in clusters on productive plants. (Indeterminate; 80 days)

‘Grandma Mary’s Paste’ – Besides having a terrific name, this old variety has delicious 3 inch red tomatoes, which are perfect for cooking or eating fresh. Plants are very prolific. (Indeterminate; 70 days)

‘Purple Russian’ – All season long, this tasty heirloom produces dark purple oval fruit, which has a meaty, rich flavor ideal for processing. Four inch plum-shaped tomatoes grow on disease resistant plants. (Indeterminate; 80 days)

‘Principe Borghese’ – This old Italian variety is famous for sun dried tomatoes. Red grape-shaped fruit is dry with few seeds, making it well suited for sauces too. Fruit grows in heavy clusters. (Determinate; 75 days)

‘Jaune Flammee’ – This prolific French heirloom is actually a globe tomato, not a paste. But the golden-yellow fruits with contrasting red interiors make lovely and delicious sun dried tomatoes. (Indeterminate; 70 to 90 days)

This story originally appeared as a guest post in The Practical Preserver.


Lylah Ledner July 24, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Just connected with you via twitter through garden living…and I'm so glad I did…i can tell I'm gonna enjoy your blog and learn more. I LOVE gardening!

Tatyana July 25, 2009 at 1:17 am

Good post, thanks! Purple Russian sounds good to me!

Seasonal Wisdom July 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Thanks, Tatyana, for stopping by. Happy gardening… Teresa

Seasonal Wisdom July 25, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Hi Lylah: Well, I'm so glad you found me on Twitter, and I appreciated your kind words. By the way, I used to live near Santa Barbara. So I know that Farmer's Market you mentioned in your blog. (Lovely pictures you have!) What a wonderful market, don't you think? Hope you'll come again. All the best, Teresa

Kim and Victoria July 26, 2009 at 9:47 pm

We're not growing any of the "paste" tomatoes. I love using a paste tomato for my bruschetta recipe, though.

Seasonal Wisdom July 26, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Kim and Victoria: Oh well, there's always next year, right? Thanks for stopping by… Teresa

Germi July 3, 2010 at 12:46 am

I am MANIC about my San Marzanos! but unfortunately, so is my arch rival – the rat who seems to have better taste in vegetable than most people I know, He leaves the unnamed seedling tomatoes for me and grabs my San Marzanos as soon as they are ripe.
I just needed to vent.
I also love Principe Borghese – delish! Didn't grow one this year, however. Always too many tomatoes, too little space!

Seasonal Wisdom July 4, 2010 at 1:14 am

Ha Ivette: That's funny! How terribly unfair that your critter is eating the good tomatoes. Figures he'd leave the no-name varieties alone. Oh well, there's always the farmer's market. Thanks for stopping by. Teresa

Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Teresa, have you had problems with BER on your San Marzanos? This is my 1st yr growing tomatoes, I grew 10 varieties and it's the only one that had BER (not all were affected; just a few bunches mid-height on the vine). Also, have you tried the SM Redorte (some say it's superior to the plain Jane SM)? I heard about it after buying my SM plant and thought I might look into it for next year. Thoughts/wisdom? Thanks!

Seasonal Wisdom September 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm


Despite the fact that I love San Marzano tomatoes…I did suffer a few problems with blossom end rot on my plant in the summer of 2010. BER is a physiological disorder, not a disease. The problem is caused by a calcium disorder, usually due to fluctuations in the water supply to the plant. So, you can't really fix the problem by adding more calcium to your soil at that point. The issue is the irrigation.

My problem was that we had widely fluctuating temperature changes early in the summer. It went from steaming hot to chilly and cool in just days. So,my tomatoes suffered from irregular irrigation. It was unavoidable, but I just tried to water as consistently as I could and avoid unnecessary fluctuations. The problem corrected itself. Still I wouldn't give up growing this old Italian heirloom. It's wonderful for cooking and preserving.

You can learn more about blossom end rot here

Don't miss my Ten Tips for Trouble-Free Tomatoes post for more advice.

Good luck, and can't wait to try that variety you mentioned. Teresa

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