I'm growing six kinds of paste (or plum, or roma) tomatoes in my garden this year. I am searching for the perfect tomato for making sauce, and here are my requirements: I want them to be large and prolifically producing, with a greater ratio of meat to juice, plus a resistance to Blossom End Rot (which tends to be a big problem for me in paste tomatoes), and, of course, they must also have a delicious flavor. I don't want much, do I?
Last year I grew two varieties, Amish and Baylor, and of the two, I preferred Amish. So this year I included one Amish paste variety. It's a great tomato, round rather than long, with a nice meaty interior.
It's not the largest tomato, and I've had a few problems with both Blossom End Rot (BER) and Sunscald with this variety. It's a reliable producer. I grew this one from seed. It's an heirloom that comes from an Amish community in Wisconsin. According to Seed Savers, which is where I bought all my tomato seed this year, this variety is generally a favorite of canners.
The next five varieties are new to me this year. The most disappointing of the lot is Pompeii, which I did not start from seed. I bought it as a seedling, and it was grown from seed obtained from my favorite seed house, Renee's Garden. It's a hybrid. It was an early contender, having been the first ripe paste tomato in my garden, and in fact the first ripe tomato altogether (usually the cherries are first to ripen here). But almost immediately, it developed a case of BER that I haven't been able to shake. I have had very few of these tomatoes make it all the way to ripe. Plus, they're small, though they are prolific. The bottom line is that I have a huge crop of tiny thin tomatoes with BER. Not acceptable. I will not be growing this variety again. (Interesting note, this variety has a sort of dimpled bottom - wonder if that contributes to BER in some mysterious way?)
The next variety is the only Determinate tomato I grew this year. I did not grow it from seed, I bought it as a seedling, but I do not know the origin of the seed. It's La Roma III, a hybrid. Apparently lots of folks grow La Roma exclusively, as they are considered one of the most superior varieties. It's not my favorite. The fruits are small, though the plant is prolific. I keep expecting a harvest 'all at once,' because Determinate tomatoes are supposed to work that way - it fruits at once and ripens at once, which would be handy for making a lot of sauce in one big batch. But I've had a few at a time, like Indeterminate varieties. Also, I shouldn't have grown one Det. among all the Ints., because it's a completely different size, much shorter than the others, and so it's hard to include in my Florida weave system of staking. The good news is, I've had no BER in this variety.
The next variety is an heirloom called Federle, which I grew from seed. The seed is originally from West Virginia. It's got a long, thin shape, but the shoulders are meaty, and it's quite a bit bigger than the previous three I've mentioned. It roasts beautifully for sauce, is incredibly prolific, and has had minor problems with BER. I bought it because it is supposed to be particularly good for salsa, and it has few seeds.
Another long, thin variety that I'm liking is Opalka. This is one I grew from seed. It's a Polish heirloom that has few seeds, therefore it's meaty. It's big - most of the fruits are six inches long, I've had no problems with BER, and it's been a prolific producer. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of a ripe one for you just now, but here's one on the vine.
I think my favorite variety of all is Rocky, which is one I did not grow from seed - I bought it as a seedling, and I do not know the origin of the seed. It's an heirloom from the United States. This is an exceptionally big tomato, extremely meaty, delicious to eat fresh and also great for sauce. It's had zero BER issues and has been very prolific. My only beef with this variety is that it has a fragile stem and needs a lot of support, and the leaves are droopier than any of my other paste tomatoes, which means it is always looking half-dead. But man. The tomatoes. They're long AND fat. I love them.
I believe I will begin to save some seed from Rocky, Opalka, Amish, and Federle, for next year. Hopefully I'll also have room for several new varieties.