There are very few seed varieties that are 70 years old still in commercial production today but Roma tomatoes are one of them. First developed in the USA in the 1950’s, if you buy canned tomatoes for cooking then chances are it is Roma or one of its offspring like Roma VF, unless stated otherwise.
Even though it is so freely available home grown always tastes best to me and if you want to be self sufficient in home preserved tomatoes through the year then this is a very good choice. It doesn’t have the flavour of Amish Paste or Tomato San Marzano but it does have a much higher yield than both.
In the Kitchen
I will often grow these in large qualities, puree them and freeze or can to last through the year. If you are going to puree I don’t bother to remove the skin or seeds. If adding direct to stews or curry then blanch for a minute in boiling water. Remove and cool in cold or iced water. The skin should peel off fairly easily. Slice and remove the hard core where the stem meets the tomato.
Yield and plant health
Roma is a big bush tomato and can get up to about 3ft so may need some support. Because of this it has an extremely high yield. It will do best in a greenhouse but can be grown outdoors in a good summer, although it would benefit from a south facing sheltered spot. It is not blight resistant.
Sow tomato seeds from January (for greenhouse/conservatory tomatoes) to April (outdoor tomatoes) and keep at a temperature of 18 a 20 degrees c. Germination should take 7 to 14 days.
I sow 6 seeds in a small seed tray, making sure there is at least an inch between seeds. I then cover with half a centimetre of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator in a location that receives plenty of light.
Once your tomatoes sprout the challenge is to give them sufficient light to stop them getting leggy. A sunny window ledge in a cool room, a heated conservatory or greenhouse kept above 12 degrees c are ideal. You will need to turn tomatoes grown on a window ledge often as they will grow towards the light. You can also use LED grow lights to supplement the light they get. Gently blowing the leaves daily may also encourage them to be more stocky.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle (2-4 leaves), transplant into individual 3 inch pots. Pot on as required. Plant out, 2-3 ft apart after all risk of frost has passed.
Cordon tomato plants require support from about 4 inches. They will then need further tying in as the plant grows. Pinch out the side shoots that grow between the stem and the leaves before they reach 2cm long. Take the tops off outdoor tomatoes after two trusses have set fruit. In unheated greenhouses after 4 trusses and in heated green houses, stop in September to allow remaining fruit to ripen.
When tomatoes are young keep the soil moist but not damp. Water from the base to reduce humid you around the leaves which encourages blight. As they start to fruit you will need to keep them consistently watered, daily if necessary to prevent fruit putting sudden spurts of growth on and splitting. Remove the lower foliage as it yellows. This encourages air flow around the plant and allows more light to get to the fruit for ripening. The more light the sweeter the tomato.