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Tomato sauce fresh from the vine.

Here are five good choices for meaty, flavorful paste tomatoes

PICKED RIPE FROM the vine, homegrown paste tomatoes give sauces a fresh, rich flavor. Meatier and less juicy than other kinds, they cook faster, give more body to sauces, and provide a greater volume of sauce per tomato. They also have fewer seeds.

Many cooks are familiar with the 'Roma'-type paste tomatoes available in grocery stores. But like other store-bought tomatoes, they're often hard and flavorless. If you grow tomatoes from seed, you have many more varieties to choose from, and they're guaranteed to be tastier.

In Sunset's test gardens in Menlo Park, California, we grew five varieties representing a range of shapes and sizes. Despite a cool, foggy summer, plants produced a bountiful crop.

Our favorite is an heirloom variety, 'Super Italian Paste'. It's the meatiest of all, sweet, flavorful, and--at 6 inches long--four times larger than the common market variety.

Another heirloom, 'Hungarian Italian', produces blocky fruits that are meaty and tart-sweet.

'San Marzano', a rectangular, pear-shaped tomato, has full flavor but isn't exceptionally sweet.

'LaRoma' and 'Del Oro' taste slightly flatter and are not quite as flavorful as some others. But both are highly productive and have good disease resistance. 'LaRoma' is a short-season variety.

Introduced this year (too late for our tests) is 'Viva Italia', a blocky variety similar in size to 'LaRoma'. It has a higher sugar content than most (good for eating fresh), is disease-resistant, and is less prone to blossom drop.

START SEEDS SOON

Seedlings take six to eight weeks to reach transplant size. Sow seeds in flats or pots. Set containers on a hotwater heater or use a heating coil until seeds germinate; then move into bright light.

Plant in full sun and well-amended soil; mix in a fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium (5-10-10).

In cool climates, plant seedlings through slits in black plastic laid over the soil. Snap off the lower two leaves and set plants deep enough so the stem is covered to just below the next leaves.

Keep soil evenly moist. Once plants are established, water deeply and less frequently for deep rooting.

WHERE TO GET SEEDS

Many seed catalogs offer a few varieties of paste tomatoes; the following three sources have a particularly wide selection.

Harris Seeds, 60 Saginaw Dr., Box 22960, Rochester, N.Y. 14692. Free catalog.

Seeds Blum, Idaho City Stage, Boise, Idaho 83706. Catalog costs $3.

Tomato Growers Supply Company, Box 2237, Fort Myers, Fla. 33902. Free catalog.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:414
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