I guess you could say this is our year for trying to perfect the heirloom paste tomato. I picked two new varieties this season that were described as being a sausage type paste, which means that they are suppose to grow very long like a sausage. Both of them were said to grow up to 6 to 7 inches long. Pretty good for a paste tomato. However, the Gilbertie Paste tomato pictured above has not been so true to type. Out of twelve of these plants I've only gotten a half a dozen or so sausage tomatoes. The one I'm holding in my hand is what we want. It measured about 6 1/2 inches long and comes to a point at the end. The little ones are from the same plants and appear to be more of a Roma tomato with a rounded end with a slight pear shape. They are tastie and the plants produced tons of them, but they were quite small and not want we wanted Okay, so what now? Well I know that heirlooms can do some funny and strange things sometimes. Was it the seed we ordered or the variety? I don't know for sure at this point. I do know that I really like what I see in the long sausage. So I sliced this one open to see what it looked like.
This is it!!! Lots of meat inside and very little seeds. This is what you need for putting up lots of tomatoes for sauce and paste. So, how bad do I want this tomato? Well the next time you see a puppy dog wagging its tail and drooling for a treat, you can think of me and my tomato. I say, let the experiment begin. One of the things I've learned over the years about heirlooms is that they acclimate to your very own garden. That means it becomes quite suited to your soil, temperatures and humidity levels. It evolves to your area. I even noticed the tomato plants taking the ends of their branches and vine them tightly around the ropes that I tie them on in an effort to hang on in the strong winds we've had this year. It was the coolest thing I've ever seen!! I've noticed that each year you save the seed from your heirloom the plants become more acclimated and disease resistant. I'm wondering now that because we've had such an extreme drought that they might even become more drought tolerant. I will certainly give Gilbertie Paste another try. I'm going to save the seed from the biggest and longest tomatoes as well as the ones that did not crack or show evidence of insect problems.
I simply push the seeds out of the tomato into a fine wire mesh screen. Wash them with cold water and push them around with your finger a bit to get out much of the pulp. Be sure that your hands are very clean when dealing with Tomatoes. They are susceptible to virus so caution should be taken from the beginning to the end of handling tomatoes and plants.
I make what I call a seed card by using a coffee filter. I push the seeds around on it with my finger to finish drying. I always write the name of the variety on it because I grow several different varieties and have a tendency to forget which is which. I then place the card in a safe place that will not be disturbed until it dries out completely. The seed will stick to it when it is dry. I then put the dried card in a labeled jar and seal it. When it comes time to plant the seed it will pop off the card with your finger nail. Just be sure to keep them stored in a cool and dry place.
Only time will tell if this variety will pay off next season. As with saving seed from all heirlooms, it is always best to save it from the strongest and most desirable fruits and vegetables. Just as you would for flowers too.
As for the other variety of heirloom paste tomato, the Roman Stripped, well I don't think I will worry to much. It is the all time winner at Thyme Square Gardens this year and highly recommended. I believe the heirlooms are so well worth the effort. They are a part of history with flavor that every gardener must experience. One little taste is usually all it takes and you will be hooked.