The humble tomato is the most popular fruit or vegetable grown in the United States. With hundreds of varieties to choose from, there are so many things that tomatoes can be used for. From a delicious tomato sauce, to sliced on a sandwich, to diced in a salsa, there are a tonne of options available to tomato lovers and growers. Our favourite tomato out of all of the varieties is the plum tomato. Without a doubt, the plum tomato is ideal for tomato sauce and is known for its sweet and acidic flavour. It needs three key things in order to flourish, sunshine, soil, and moisture.
This article aims to look a little deeper into the plum tomato and give you a quick and easy guide on tomato growing as a whole and how to grow the best plum tomatoes possible. It will discuss how they differ from the other types of tomato, how to plant them, maintain them, and harvest them.
Table of Contents
What is a Plum Tomato?
I suppose it is important to point out exactly what a plum tomato is before telling you how to grow them. There are five types of tomato, plum, cherry, globe, beefsteak, and oxheart. Each tomato differs based on shape and size. The plum tomato is one of the smaller varieties and are often ovular in shape. Some varieties can be pear-shaped, but most plum tomatoes will resemble an oval.
Typically they can vary in size, ranging from 1-inch to 5-inches long. The main difference between the plum tomato and other variants other than size or shape, would be that there is little liquid on the inside. This is what makes the plum tomato great for cooking because you are dealing with less watery liquid, and they are not nearly as messy as a result. The plum tomato particularly shines when used in the sauce making process.
Growing the Plum Tomatoes: The Basics
There are many intricacies behind the growing of plum tomatoes. To be honest, many sites will tell you different things, so here is a bulleted list of some general tips that you can follow or utilise when looking to grow your plum tomatoes. Try them and see if they work.
- The general consensus is that it is best to plant your tomato seeds indoors about 8 weeks before the last spring frost. This is the last day in spring when there is frost. This date can vary greatly depending on where abouts in the States you are, but it is for the most part in March – May, so you will want to plant your seeds from January – March.
- Be sure to place them in sunlight by a window or under grow lights in your chosen containers.
- Keep your soil moist as the seeds continue to grow, using some form of diluted liquid fertilizer every 7-12 days.
- After a couple of weeks, you should begin to transplant your growing tomatoes, however, before moving them into a well-lit position to grow, you should place them in a shaded area for about 5-6 days so that they harden a little and have a better chance of surviving the direct sunlight to come.
- Once you have began to increase the levels of light exposure gradually, you should start planting. Tomatoes as a whole seem to love sunlight. They need about 8-12 hours of light a day and moist, well-fertilized soil to grow effectively.
- Try and bury the plant quite deep in the ground so that it is less susceptible to drought. You should be looking at 60-70% of the plant to be under the ground. If there are any leaves on that bottom-third, you can remove them if it makes planting easier.
- The most effective way of planting tomatoes is to stake them. This can be done by purchasing wood and cutting the bottom so that they are easy to push into the soil. Due to the robust nature of the lumber, the tomato plant will easily be able to grow up the wood.
- Another useful method of tomato growing is the wire mesh technique. Buying wire mesh panels and making semi-circular tunnels by bending the mesh is a useful way of helping the tomatoes grow. For larger tomato types this can be a useful technique.
How to care for your tomatoes?
There are two main types of tomato care that anyone who is serious about growing their own tomatoes should employ. Firstly, it is most important to water the tomatoes. You will need to be consistent with the watering and water the soil as opposed to the plant.
The soil is where the plant feeds from. Another pro tip is to water in the morning so that the plant has time to absorb the water and nutrients in the sunlight. Secondly is the use of fertilizer. This is another way to feed the plant and the use of some organic fertilizers are often touted as being the best solution.
Time to Harvest
So you have done everything by the book, and now it is time to harvest your tomatoes. The best initial indicators of whether your tomatoes are ready or not are by their colour and feel. Tomatoes will always ripen from the inside out, so if they are the colour they should be (usually red) and are firm on the outside, then you will know that they are ready.
Typically, a little tug is enough to remove a ripe tomato of any kind from its stem, but sometimes a garden snips can be used. In fact, to preserve the health of the tomato, I would recommend using a snips regardless.
Differences to Remember
Determinate vs Indeterminate
Determinate tomatoes are bushy in nature and can grow up to three feet tall. They will typically flower simultaneously, ripen, and then die. Determinate tomatoes pre-programmed to have a certain number of stems, leaves, and flowers, so it is easy to predict what the end result will look like of done properly. Indeterminate tomatoes are more vine-like in structure, keep growing taller and taller, and need caging or staking for support. They will continue to grow and set fruit until frost ends their life.
Generally, they produce later in the season than determinate varieties and give you robust crops over longer. Typically, the plum tomato would be Indeterminate because, as the name suggests, you cannot determine the growth pattern, particularly if you use wire mesh or a wooden stake.
Hybrid and Heirloom Tomatoes
Hybrids are created when plant breeders cross-pollinate two different plant varieties with the intention of producing an offspring containing the parent’s favourable traits. Some of these traits will include dependability, disease resistance, better flavour, early maturity, bigger yield, and size. In comparison to this, heirlooms are not as disease resistant and are far older varieties that have not been cross-pollinated.
The beauty of the plum tomato is that there are so many varieties available. These varieties can range in shape and colour. Some of the more unique ones include:
Amish Paste – The Amish paste variety is an heirloom tomato that is long and cylindrical in nature. It has a rich and sweet flavour that makes it ideal for making tomato-based sauces and for bringing salads and salsas to life.
Speckled Roman – One of the more acidic and tangy varieties, the Roman is known for its beautiful streaks of yellow and red and is perfect in salads or for sauces.
San Marzano – If you are looking to make the perfect pizza sauce, this is the tomato you need to grow. It is the most common and most celebrated plum tomatoes. The variety can grow up to about 3-inches in length and is full of sweet and tangy flavour that brings a portion of pasta to life and is beautiful in a salad too!
Banana Legs – To be honest, I wanted to include this variety because it sounds crazy. These tomatoes are yellow, grow to be about 4 inches long and are sweet. As opposed to some other varieties on the list, the Banana leg variety are determinate.