Do you want to grow your own tomatoes for making sauces and salsas but you’re not sure how to pick the right variety? Technically, you can use any type of tomato to make a paste, sauce, or salsa, but the best tomatoes for canning sauces and salsas are thick walled, have few seeds, and are meatier than other tomatoes.
These denser tomatoes make your work easier as you’ll need fewer tomatoes and less time to make your sauces. Among tomato nerds like us, we call canning tomatoes with these qualities paste tomatoes.
What are paste tomatoes?
Also known as plum tomatoes, paste tomatoes have characteristics that are desirable for making sauces and salsas. These tomatoes have less juice and seeds which cuts down on processing time.
They’re also often grown on determinate, bushy plants that have high yields in a short period of time. This is desirable since you want to be able to preserve the crop in batches.
Some say paste tomatoes are mild in flavor, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The flavor will be somewhat intensified as you condense the tomato into a sauce, and a mild tomato makes sauces that don’t overpower the flavor of the rest of your ingredients.
One variety of paste tomato that many people are familiar with is the Roma tomato. Romas are great paste tomatoes, and you’ll see lots of similar varieties of tomatoes referred to as Roma type.
Another commonly recommended paste tomato is the San Marzano. San Marzanos are praised for their flavor and texture which are ideal for homemade tomato paste, sauce, or salsa.
The problem with traditional paste tomatoes
The thing you don’t really hear talked about is that home gardeners often find that these tomatoes are hard to grow.
That’s because they’re very prone to diseases that can wipe out an entire crop which is terrible when you’re trying to grow food for your family. Paste tomatoes are also notorious for struggling with blossom end rot which makes the tomatoes unusable.
We’ve grown dozens of varieties of paste tomatoes, and we know that some plants will get blossom end rot (BER) on every single fruit. It’s incredibly frustrating!
Blossom end rot is a complex disease process that has a lot to do with how you grow your tomatoes, but some types of tomatoes are more prone to the disorder than others.
For example, elongated tomatoes with pointy ends (like San Marzano) are very prone to BER whereas cherry and heart-shaped tomatoes are very resistant.
Growing tomatoes for canning sauces and salsas
For best results growing paste tomatoes, make sure you’re burying your tomato stems as deep as possible leaving only 2-3 sets of leaves above ground. Mulch the base of your plants heavily to help block weeds and prevent moisture loss.
The way you fertilize them will affect their growth. To make healthy plants that bear lots of fruit, fertilize at planting with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and then switch to potassium-rich fertilizer when they start making tomatoes and repeat as needed every 4-8 weeks.
It’s incredibly frustrating as a family that eats A LOT of tomatoes, that we haven’t found a really good producer in the paste tomato category.
So I went on the hunt for some paste varieties of tomatoes that are resistant to disease AND least likely to get BER. These suggestions are from seed companies and fellow tomato nerds who grow and trial many types of tomatoes to find what works the best.
Some are hybrids and some are open pollinated. If you’re not sure what that means, check out this video:
Best hybrid paste tomatoes for canning
Granadero f1 – an indeterminate variety, this hybrid has a killer disease package. It’s a heavy producer of extremely uniform medium sized tomatoes with great flavor.
Pozanno F1 – another indeterminate that has awesome resistance to diseases and not prone to blossom end rot. Has the classic San Marzano shape but doesn’t give in to long, hot summers.
Gladiator hybrid – if you’re looking for a larger paste tomato, consider growing this indeterminate variety by Burpee. This is a Roma type, but quite a bit larger and, despite its large size, is supposed to be good for patios and smaller gardens.
Best open-pollinated or heirloom paste tomatoes for sauces and salsas
Marzano fire – A striking yellow striped red tomato that has shown great resistance to disease. This variety, bred in southern California by Fred Hempel, is loved by many who grow it.
Rio Grande – bred to be tolerant of both hot and cold temperatures, this determinate plant sets lots of red, 6-8 oz tomatoes. The thick meaty tomatoes have a mild flavor but are great for canning into paste, salsa, and sauces.
Saucey tomato – An early producer of heavy yields of small red meaty tomatoes with great flavor. Fruit keeps well on the vine so you can harvest all at once.
Goldman’s Italian American tomato – very large thick walled pear-shaped tomato that is great for canning. A unique heirloom variety that has an excellent flavor for saucing.
Santa Maria – a somewhat rare indeterminate Italian heirloom paste tomato that has an excellent sweet flavor. It’s meaty and has few seeds to make canning easier.
Heidi – Excellent flavor and resistance to blossom end rot are the winning features of this tomato. Although the tomatoes are on the small side, the plant is very productive.
Oroma – A very dense, not too juicy, long holding tomato originally released by OSU. Has excellent resistance to BER despite its oblong nippled shape. I’ve heard great things about this nearly seedless paste tomato.
San Marzano Redorta – la arge Italian heirloom paste tomato with a great taste and impressive disease resistance.
Feel free to mix types of tomatoes in your sauce
One of the best things about growing your own tomatoes for canning is that you can mix in several different varieties to make your sauce. This can improve the flavor and texture of your home canned goods.
Try a few different varieties and see which ones you like the best. Then start experimenting with mixing different types of tomatoes to add sweetness, acidity, and texture.
You could also try adding some of your favorite flavored slicing tomatoes or roast some cherry tomatoes to add flavor to your sauce.
You can always freeze some tomatoes as the harvest is coming in and use them later on when you’re ready. There’s no right or wrong combination of tomatoes for making sauce, just use what you like to eat.
Have you grown paste tomatoes for sauce or salsa at home before?
Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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