Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hooked on this Heirloom: Amish Paste Tomato

As I start to grow and collect the seeds from heirloom vegetables (and flowers, too), I am going to start showcasing our favorites! First up in "Hooked on This Heirloom" is our current favorite: Amish Paste tomatoes.

Okay, so maybe you've heard of heirloom tomatoes. You think they look pretty, sound tasty, and must be unique, but you aren't sure what makes them any different from a 'regular old' tomato. Here is a quick explanation: 

An heirloom, or heritage, breed (of any vegetable) is a variety that has been saved and passed through many generations. The seeds from an heirloom will breed 'true'- you will get the same vegetable as the plant you saved the seed from. 

A hybrid vegetable is a cross between two different varieties, usually to take advantage of the best traits of both plants. Hybrids can be wonderful in the garden, but they have one major disadvantage: you can't save their seed. Or more specifically, you can't keep the breed going by saving their seed. You can certainly try to replant hybrid seeds, but you will likely get a plant that produces odd tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all.

*Don't confuse hybrid with GM (genetically modified), please! They are not the same at all. Farmers have been creating and breeding hybrid vegetables for thousands of years; they are completely safe and don't require a scientific laboratory. You just can't save their seeds reliably. :)

There are very good reasons to grow heirloom tomatoes, and here are mine:

1. You can save their seed from year to year, saving money (a big plus for me!).

2. The varieties are astounding! Browse my favorite heirloom seed companies, Baker's Creek or Seed Saver's Exchange, and the beauty and array of all the types of tomatoes will amaze you. You will also find, as you start making gardening friends old and new, that most are very willing to share their heirloom seeds with you. (bonus! make new friends by sharing/swapping seeds!)

3. You can implement your own 'natural selection' year by year. Take the seeds from the plant that did the best and produced the nicest tomatoes and then plant those seeds the next year. With each passing year you will have selected your own strong strain that is suited for the conditions and climate in your own yard.

4. You are helping to preserve seeds that may be rare. Many varieties of veggies have gone extinct, which I find very sad. By saving and planting all kinds of different heirloom plants, you will not only have fun with the variety, but you'll be helping to keep rare breeds alive and well for the generations who follow you.

Throughout the growing season, we find that Amish Paste can produce a variety of shapes. Most of the tomatoes that grow are the classic roma, or plum, shape, but in this photo you can see we get some other shapes as well:


We even sometimes get a few 'Siamese Twin' tomatoes!

Here are the reasons why I'm especially in love with Amish Paste and will continue to save their seed year after year:

  • They are a good all-around tomato. Beautiful for saucing, dicing to freeze or can, or just slicing to eat fresh.
  • The plant is EXTREMELY hardy. Despite my error last season starting them too early indoors, and a rough start outdoors, they flourished wildly.
  • They produce an astounding amount of tomatoes. Quite honestly, at times it's hard to keep up with them. 

We sauce them,

Dice them,

Tower up our containers,

And fill up our freezer. We are learning to can, as well.

As the summer wears on, it seems every day 

we come in the house with a bowl-full of Amish Paste!

Not a bad performance, considering the little space we have.

These tomatoes have us convinced; heirlooms are absolutely worth a try!


  1. they look great! some tomato volunteered from our compost and we went with it. I suspect they are hybrids as they were from store bought tomatoes and they are a little bit slow but in total we have 8 tomatoes growing! It is better than nothing..

    I will look into this amish paste tomato I love my tomatoes multi-purpose!

    1. I actually love to see what turns up with the volunteer tomatoes. :) 8 tomatoes, yay! That will give you a good amount! Nihal, I have extra seeds. I will pm you.

  2. Great Post Andrea! I'm looking forward to more posts on your heirloom plants! We grow a lot of open pollinated varieties of different veggies but I've never done heirloom tomatoes. Everyone raves about them so much that I decided to take the plunge this year and grow my first heirloom tomatoes. I will be putting in 2 brandywine tomatoes this year so we will see how it goes!!

    1. I'm excited to see how your brandywine turn out. I've heard SO much about their amazing flavor! I have thought about trying those myself.

  3. This tomato variety seems great! I'm growing pink oxhart tomatoes this year; I've never tried them before, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a good yield. I'm definitely going to write down this variety of tomato for next year -- a bowl-full a day sounds perfect to me :)

    1. Hi Caitlin! Pink Oxhart...looking that one up! I'd like to try one new heirloom tomato each year, or every other year. Space may be an issue...but I want to try so many! I'm trying to establish my 'workhorse' strain of tomatoes (which I think the Amish paste just may fit the bill) for all the canning and freezing. But then I'd also like one of each of a big variety of others. I simply ADORE tomatoes! :)

  4. Andrea,
    I grew an Amish Paste last year but I have such poor luck with starting from seed that I never thought to save the seeds. I'm so glad it worked out for you!
    That's a very flavorful tomato--good for eating, salsa, sauce, and canning. I can see the back wall of the shelf where I store my canned tomato products, and I am crossing my fingers that I make it to fresh tomato season. I stumbled across the fresh tomato pesto I put up last year, though, so that's helping extend our tomato eating.

    1. I hope your tomato stash holds you through...ours is gone. :( Next summer I'm going to up my canning/freezing, for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Great post. I have to agree Amish Paste is absolutely the best heirloom paste tomato around.

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