The Great Heirloom Paste Tomato Search: Mid-Season Report

Earlier this spring, I posted about my search for an heirloom alternative to my favorite hybrid paste tomato (you can read more about the details and varieties here). As I round out the tomato theme on the blog this week, I thought it would be a good time to give a little mid-season report on how each variety is growing.
Big Mama was the first tomato to blossom and set fruit, and also the first to produce a ripe tomato.  Being the hybrid variety, it's not surprising that the fruits are the most uniformly shaped and sized, but what I am a little surprised by is how small the plants are compared to the others.  All these years, I've always thought they were incredibly prolific growers, as they grew up, over, and down the fence, but now that they're growing along side some of these other varieties, they clearly are not the most vigorous growers of the bunch.  That's not to say that this tomato isn't still impressive at close to 7' tall and loaded down with beautiful clusters of tomatoes. Sadly, it is the only paste tomato so far to have blossom end rot, and it was also hit hardest by the Early Blight.
Amish Paste was the second paste tomato to blossom and set fruit, but it has still yet to give up a ripe tomato (though that one big one is getting pretty close!).  These tomatoes are much more round (some more than others) than the rest of the paste tomatoes and are probably the closest true match to Big Mama.  The fruits really bulk up on the vine, and I'm going to be very interested to see how they weigh in once I start harvesting a few.  The plants are prolific producers, and are easily the most aggressive growers in the group (they have to be at least 8, if not pushing 9' "tall" as they now make their way back down the other side of the fence).  
San Marzano was the next tomato to blossom and set fruit (third, if you're keeping track), but it was the second variety to produce a ripe tomato. The clusters of tomatoes are huge, but the fruits themselves are the smallest tomatoes out of all of the varieties.  These more elongated tomatoes are so pretty (I really love some of the more whimsically shaped ones), especially as they start to ripen.    Of all the paste tomatoes in this group, this plant's growth is the most densely packed.  It's only about 6' tall right now, but it's 6' of thick, dense vegetation and lots of big clusters of tomatoes.  Also worth noting, this variety was the least effected by Early Blight. 
Federle was the fourth variety out of the group to blossom and set fruit, but it is the only variety that has not shown any signs of ripen yet.  They are easily the largest fruits out of the bunch, and there's an interesting variety of really elongated tomatoes and some that are more short and squat (and of course there's that one huge tomato, too).  These plants are in second place as far as height and vegetative growth goes.  They are close to 8' tall and producing a lot of tomatoes.  My hunch is that this variety is going to make up the bulk of my late season harvest.  
Opalka was the last variety to set fruit, but it was the third variety to produce a ripe tomato.  They are beautiful elongated tomatoes, but this tomato has not been a real heavy producer.  They are still setting on a good amount of fruit, so I'm holding to hope that they might still make a good yield.  Height-wise, these plants are pretty much in the middle of the pack, and that assessment would be fair as far as how dense the foliage on the plants are as well.  This one had the most trouble with Early Blight of all the heirloom varieties.

Of course, I'm still waiting for the real deal breaker in this experiment: the taste comparison! Stay tuned!

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