Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wrapping up the Tomato Season: No. 2 Roma San Marzano

In the second installment of the wrapping up of the tomato season we have what I think is a fitting number two (pun pretty much intended). Ok so I shouldn't have much against this harmless guy, San Marzano, he is the workhorse of the tomato family, the paste pioneer, and a reasonably prolific fruiter. It's just that, well, he just isn't right for the balcony garden. Not that we are too cliquey here, anyone is welcome, but to get the recurring pass to the VIP room you have to be a little bit out of the ordinary. That said I will try and give an informative and unbiased rundown, though as you can tell my mind is pretty much made up ... or is it???

About an hour ago, when i started considering this post I thought Mr San Marzano was not such a bad guy. He fruited prolifically for a small, pot-bound plant. This single plant gave me 25 tomatoes over a reasonably shortish reason, struck down by wilt and other such balcony bred diseases (when one goes the others seem to want to follow suit). Usually between one and three would ripen at a time. Good for an eating tomato, but for a paste tomato it was a bit annoying. He suffered a bit of blossom end rot, probably more my fault than his, and on the whole he survived the heat ok.

They tasted fine, as romas go, but these are not really your eating raw type tomato. Even with the extra goodness of home-grown taste they were pretty much average in a sandwich. They never made me get that tummy-tingle you get when the eating of a super ripe Mortgage Lifter is imminent. I don't know about you but I think Radiator Charlie cross bred those babies with an addictive chemical because I get strong urges to munch them down rapidly when they are in the house, and go through withdrawals at the end of their season. More to come on that front in an upcoming post. See look here, case in point. This is a review about San Marzano and I just spent the better half of a paragraph discussing the merits of Mortgage Lifters. San Marzano just don't trigger a big response in me.

I also saw this in my photo collection. Above there is a picture of a few San Marzanos amongst other balcony garden tomatoes. Like all good plant parents I regularly get out there and photograph the produce, whether is be flowering, fruiting or harvested and ready for consumption. When trawling through my photos I realised there just weren't many pictures of this guy. It's like the child in a sitcom who is flirting with the idea that maybe he/she is adopted and tries to prove this by the lack of early photographs in the parental photo album. It turns out that the parents were just not camera friendly, or lazy, or whatever, it is always a neat solution in sit com land. But in the balcony garden photo album no photos means no love, and I guess I just don't love Mr San Marzano. I did love him a little when green, because I found this one below, but that's pretty much it apart from group shots and the one picture of the plant growing, though no sign of tomatoes so technically it could be any tomato (but I know from its position which one it was)

He makes great paste (I'm not actually sure how wrong that reads) But when you can get a 5kg box for a couple of dollars at the Vic Markets down the road his value is lessened. The balcony garden is such a limited space, even though I managed to cram in 18 plants this year, and more in a second late planted crop, I just don't think I can stretch it to include this guy.

So San Marzano is great a tomato in theory, he fulfills his function, but when pressed for space I think I will err towards to the unique. Then I came across this guy - the speckled Roma.

He is unique, he is paste, he is San Marzano but speckled! And he is possibly/probably going in next year! I bought some seeds and we will just have to wait and see.


Dan said...

I grew 'speckled Romain' one year as well as 'green sausage'. The Speckled Romain was a pretty good eating tomato but it was much better for sauce. The green sausage was awful and mealy.

This year I am growing 'Jersey Devil' for a pasta tomato. It is supposed to grow fruit that are similar in shape to a chili. I hope it is tasty.

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

The speckled roma looks interesting, I can't wait to see what you think of it next year. I agree with you on the connection between lack of space and uniqueness. If I had more garden than I knew what to do with, I would consider good solid plants that aren't particularly interesting, but serve a purpose. But when you only have room for a handful of plants, each one has to be useful and beautiful.

Tatyana said...

The speckled guy looks so attractive, I would be sorry to eat it. I've never heard and never seen him before. Thanks, I learned something new!