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Introduction to Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are the epitome of a true, American paste tomato. Their dense, meaty flesh, low moisture content and few seeds (we counted exactly 100 in a 2 oz Roma), make them ideal for processing into sauces, paste, ketchup (catsup) or canning. While many paste tomatoes have the word Roma in their name or description (see Varieties of Roma Tomatoes), not all paste tomatoes have the word Roma in their name or description (see Popular Varieties of Paste Tomatoes). Despite this identity confusion, all Roma tomatoes are paste tomatoes and many paste tomatoes can use the word Roma as an adjective in describing their shape, color and purpose.

Flavor:
While favored for making sauces, pastes, ketchup and for canning, traditional romas or classic romas were never really sought after for their flavor to be eaten whole or with salads and sandwiches. But of course, this has changed over the last few decades as more flavorful, and sweeter tasting Roma cultivars have been developed and became popular. Some examples include: Roma Napoli, Martino's Roma, and Rio Grande Roma, to name a few. The classic romas, Roma VF or Roma OP can be eaten with salads and topping on pizza and taste fine. The smaller romas, Cherry Romas are sought after for snacks and salads because of the sweet, delicious flavor. Popular paste tomatoes good for sauces and eating whole include the Polish Linguisa, Opalka and Spitze (a roma style paste tomato from Romania).

Plants:
Most roma tomato plants are determinate. Determinate tomato plants are shorter (under 4 feet) and bushier than indeterminate tomato plants which can grow taller and are more like vines. Determinate tomato plants produce all of their fruit at roughly the same time, whereas indeterminate produce tomatoes all season long. Romas producing all of their fruit at one time is convenient to growers looking to process them into sauce, paste, ketchup and canning.

In general, romas mature 70 to 80 days after transplanting, with 76 being the average. Earlier varieties include the Orange Roma (65 to 69 days), Golden Roma (70 days), and the Baller (71 days).

Larger varieties generally mature 80 days or more after transplanting. These include the Jumbo Roma (85 to 90 days) and Speckled Roman (85 days).

Indeterminate varieties of romas include: Baller, Jumbo Roma, Orange Roma, Pink Roma, Phil Tolli's Roma, Speckled Roman (Striped Roma), and Sweet Orange Roma.

Indeterminate varieties of popular paste tomatoes include: Amish Paste, Opalka, Hungarian Italian, Polish Linguisa, San Marzano, Spitze, and Super Italian Paste.

Productivity:
Most romas, including the classic Roma OP and Roma VF are abundant producers, capable of producing up to 50 to 200 tomatoes on one plant. Other roma cultivars known for their high productivity include: Golden Roma, La Roma, Martino's Roma, Rio Grande Roma, Roma Macero, and the Speckled Roman (Striped Roma). One variety noted for low productivity is the Yellow Roma, which is a cross between a Roma and Jubilee.

Growing Roma Tomatoes from Seed:
To learn how to grow roma tomatoes from seed, check out our 2009 Growing journal of the classical Roma VF.

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