The meaty and nutritious plum tomato is a gift to any chef. They are also known as Roma tomatoes and are easily recognizable by their elongated oval shape, sometimes even cylindrical. They are commonly used in the Italian cuisine for their meaty texture, and their solid content is ideally suited for making sauces and adding to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes.
All about the Italian plum tomatoes or Roma tomatoes
Do you want quality in a tomato? Then there’s nothing other than a type of plum tomato for you. The exact origin of the plum tomato is uncertain, but it is thought to have originated in Italy in the late 19th century from a cross between San Marzano and American tomatoes.
In Italy, fresh or sun-warmed plum tomatoes have long been used for sauces that form the base of classic Italian dishes such as pizzas and pasta dishes. They were introduced to the United States in the early 20th century and quickly gained popularity among home gardeners and commercial growers.
In recent years, interest in heirloom and specialty varieties of plum tomatoes has grown, and many farmers and gardeners are experimenting with new and unusual cultivars. Some of the more popular varieties include San Marzano, Amish Paste, and Orange Banana.
Why do we love plum tomatoes? Well, that’s easy to answer. Compared to other types of tomatoes, they have lower water content and higher concentration of nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. The seed compartments have a few seeds and more pulp, which makes it easier to have thicker sauces and purees.
Plum tomatoes are well-suited to warm, dry climates, and they can be grown in various soil types as long as the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. They are often grown using staking or trellising systems to support the plants and prevent the fruit from touching the ground.
The fruit is typically harvested when it is still firm and slightly underripe. When cooking with ripe fruit, it’s often recommended to blanch and peel them first to remove the tough skins.
The many uses of Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes, also called Roma tomatoes, are a popular variety of delicious tomatoes commonly used in cooking, especially in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. This has proven to be a versatile ingredient perfectly suitable for a wide range of dishes, from salads, soups, sauces, salsas, stews, roasted, made into a puree, and sundried.
Their rich taste, meaty texture, and low water content make them popular for cooking and preserving. Peeled plum tomatoes enhance dishes from pizza to pasta and much more. Once you eat the popular plum paste tomato, no substitute will do.
Roma tomatoes Tips to a bountiful harvest.
This plant grows easily, and the process is relatively straightforward. It can be in your home garden or in containers on a balcony or patio that you choose to place your plants in. Even though commercially produced and distributed plum tomatoes are freely available, it certainly is better grown in your garden.
The following steps and tips will guide you through the process from planting seedlings to enjoying the luscious fruit of the many varieties found in the market:
- 1. Choose a location: Plum tomatoes need full bright sun to grow and produce fruit, so select a spot in your kitchen garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. A polytunnel is often used to cultivate these tomatoes.
- 2. Prepare the soil: Tomatoes prefer well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. Enrich your soil before planting with well-rotted compost or manure for best results.
- 3. Plant the tomatoes: Plant seedlings or transplants in the soil once the danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the plant’s root ball, then cover it with soil and pat it down lightly.
- 4. Provide support: The plants need support to grow tall and produce fruit. Install a trellis, stakes, or cages around the plants to keep them upright and prevent them from sprawling on the ground.
- 5. Water regularly: Tomatoes need consistent moisture to grow and produce fruit. Consider the climate and conditions around your plants, and then water deeply if needed. Generally, this is about once or twice a week.
- 6. Fertilizer: Apply a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season to promote healthy growth and fruit production.
- 7. Prune as needed: To encourage airflow and prevent diseases, prune any suckers that grow from the base of the plant or between the main stem and branches and clean out dead leaves and damaged parts of the plant.
- 8. Harvest the fruit: Once the tomatoes are ripe and bright red, gently twist or cut the stems off the vine. If you need to ripen them further, place them in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple.
How to propagate plum tomato varieties
There are two common ways to propagate plum tomatoes: from seeds or cuttings.
1. Propagating from seeds:
- · Start with a good ripe, mature plum tomato. Collect the seeds from this fruit.
- · Rinse the seeds in water and remove any pulp or residue.
- · Allow the seeds to dry over a few days.
- · Plant the seeds in a seed starting mix or directly into the garden soil after the last frost date.
- · Place the seed container in a warm and sunny location. This will help to ensure that the soil is moist and not soggy.
Seedlings will emerge in 5-10 days. Once the seedlings have developed two true leaves, transplant them into individual containers or the garden bed.
2. Propagating from cuttings: To propagate from cuttings, follow these steps:
- · Choose a healthy tomato plant and take a cutting from a new, green shoot.
- · Cut the shoot at a 45-degree angle, about 4-6 inches from the tip of the shoot.
- · Clean off the leaves from the lower end of the plant.
- · A rooting hormone can be applied before planting to help the cutting to take root.
- · Set down the cutting in a potting mix that allows proper drainage.
- · Keep the soil moist and cover the pot with plastic wrap to create a humid environment.
- · Once the cutting has developed roots, typically in 2-4 weeks, remove the plastic covering and transplant it to a larger container or directly into the garden bed.
What is the best type of soil to plant plum tomatoes?
Plum tomatoes grow best in well-draining, fertile soil rich in organic matter. The ideal pH range for growing tomatoes is between 6.0 and 6.8.
Here are some tips on what type of soil is best for growing plum tomatoes:
- 1. Sandy loam soil: This well-draining soil is ideal for growing plum tomatoes. It contains a good balance of sand, silt, and clay, allowing for good drainage and aeration while retaining moisture.
- 2. Soil rich in organic matter: Plum tomatoes require soil rich in organic matter such as compost, aged manure, or other organic material. Organic matter helps to improve soil fertility, structure, and water-retention capacity.
- 3. Avoid heavy clay soil: This soil can cause drainage problems and may lead to root rot. If you have this soil, you can amend it by adding organic matter to improve its texture and drainage.
- 4. Test the soil pH: Plum tomatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. You can test the soil pH using a testing kit and amend the soil as needed to adjust the pH.
Ideal garden temperature and humidity for Plum Tomatoes
Plum tomatoes thrive in warm sunny conditions with moderate humidity. The ideal temperature is 70°F and 85°F. Too hot or too cold, the plant will not thrive. Plum tomatoes also prefer humidity levels between 40% – 70%. High humidity levels can increase the risk of fungal diseases such as mildew and blight. It is essential to provide good air circulation around the plants to prevent moisture buildup and reduce the risk of disease.
You can use a thermometer and a hygrometer to maintain ideal temperature and humidity levels to monitor conditions around your plants. Shading, misting, or using a fan will help adjust the conditions to make the environment better suited for plum tomato plants. When shading is done, the plants must have at least six hours of sunlight daily to ensure a healthy harvest. With misting, the retained moisture must be monitored so that the plants do not stay wet over long periods.
Tips on watering plum tomatoes
The watering schedule depends on the weather, soil type, and growth stage. In general, tomatoes require consistent moisture to grow and produce fruit, but overwatering can lead to disease and other issues. Here are some tips on how to water plum tomatoes:
1. Water deeply: This will encourage deep root growth and help the plant to withstand dry periods better. Aim to water deeply at least once a week, but adjust the frequency based on weather conditions.
2. Water early in the day: This allows the leaves to dry quickly, which can help prevent the spread of disease. Avoid watering in the evenings, as this can leave unnecessary moisture on the leaves overnight, increasing the risk of fungal infections.
3. Use a drip irrigation system: Drip irrigation systems are an efficient way to water tomato plants. They deliver water directly to the plant’s roots, reducing contact with the leaves and water loss through evaporation.
4. Avoid overhead watering: Overhead watering, such as with a sprinkler, can wet the foliage and increase the risk of fungal diseases. If you use overhead watering, ensure it’s done early in the day and avoid getting water on the leaves.
5. Check the soil moisture: Stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. This is about three or four inches in depth; if it is dry, it is time to water.
By following these watering tips, you can help ensure that your plum tomato plants have the right moisture to grow and produce healthy fruit.
How to fertilize and feed plum tomatoes
Regular fertilization and feeding encourage healthy growth and produce a good harvest. Here are some tips on how to fertilize and deed your plum tomato plants:
Use a fertilizer with a balanced amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K), such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. This will provide the essential nutrients for optimal plant growth.
Ø Apply fertilizer at planting: Mix a balanced fertilizer into the soil around each plant when you plant your plum tomato seedlings. This will ensure a good start and help them establish strong roots.
Ø Side-dress the plants: Once your plum tomato plants have started to grow and produce fruit, you can side-dress them with a balanced fertilizer. To do this, apply fertilizer evenly along the side of each row of plants, taking care not to get any on the leaves or stems.
Ø Use organic fertilizers: If you prefer organic fertilizer, you can use compost or well-rotted manure to feed your plum tomato plants by applying them to the soil around each plant. You can also mix it into the soil when planting your seedlings.
Ø Avoid over-fertilizing: While it’s essential to provide your plum tomatoes with the nutrients they need, it’s also vital not to over-fertilize. Too much fertilizer can cause excessive foliage growth at the expense of fruit production or even damage the plants. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package carefully and do not apply more than recommended.
Cultivars of plum tomatoes
There are many cultivars of plum tomatoes, each with its unique characteristics. You can choose from the following cultivars, which have become popular with many gardeners, or many other varieties available in the market:
· San Marzano: This Italian heirloom is considered the gold standard for plum tomatoes. It has a dense, meaty texture and is prized for its rich flavor and low acidity. San Marzano tomatoes are typically used for making tomato sauce and paste.
· Roma: This is one of the most widely grown varieties. It has thick flesh and few seeds and is perfect for making sauce and paste. Roma tomatoes are also great for canning and drying.
· Amish Paste: This heirloom variety has a sweet, tangy flavor and a meaty texture. It’s great for soups, stews, and sauces.
· Opalka: This Polish heirloom is a long, slender plum tomato with a sweet, mild flavor. It’s excellent for eating fresh as well as for canning and sauce-making.
· Martino’s Roma: This is a newer variety of Roma tomatoes known for their disease resistance and high yields. It has a rich sweet flavor and is perfect for sauces and canning.
· Juliet: This grape tomato variety has an oblong shape and a rich flavor. It’s excellent for salads, snacking, and roasting.
These are just a few of the many cultivars of plum tomatoes available. When choosing a variety, consider flavor, texture, disease resistance, and intended use.
Managing pests and diseases of plum tomatoes
Plum tomatoes, like all tomato plants, are susceptible to various pests and diseases. Correct handling of pests and diseases is vital for robust plants. Here are some tips on how to manage common pests and diseases of plum tomatoes:
1. Aphids: These small insects feed on the sap of tomato plants, causing leaves to wilt and curl. You can control aphids by using insecticidal soap or neem oil, or by introducing natural predators such as ladybugs.
2. Tomato hornworms: These large green caterpillars can quickly strip tomato plants of their leaves and fruit. Handpicking and destroying the caterpillars is one option, or you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a natural bacterium that kills the caterpillars.
3. Early blight: This fungal disease causes brown spots on the leaves and stems of tomato plants. To manage early blight, remove infected plant material and keep the plants well-spaced to promote air circulation. You can also apply copper fungicide to help prevent the spread of the disease.
4. Fusarium wilt: This soil-borne disease causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves and can eventually kill the plant. To manage fusarium wilt, rotate your tomato crops to a different location each year. You can also use resistant tomato varieties.
5. Blossom end rot: This disorder causes dark sunken areas on the bottom of the tomato fruit. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant, which can be managed by ensuring consistent soil moisture and adding calcium to the soil.
6. Plum tomatoes are prone to cracking, especially when there are fluctuations in soil moisture. To prevent cracking, keep the soil evenly moist and avoid overwatering or allowing the soil to dry out completely.
Constant monitoring of the tomato plants will help to eradicate problems as they arise and keep the plants healthy and productive.