Roma tomatoes are a variety of tomato known for their durability in sauces and canning. Romas are grown in many warm regions of the world, often year-round in greenhouses, and as a result, they are available in most markets almost all the time. Romas can also be grown at home. For people with limited space, a cultivar known as the “windowbox Roma” is available for growing in containers.
These tomatoes are classified as plum tomatoes, which means that they have been bred specifically for canning, packing, and sauces. Plum tomatoes have very dense flesh and a small seed cavity, producing a lot of meat with each fruit. They also have fewer seeds than other tomato varieties, which can be convenient for people who like to sieve canned tomatoes and sauces to remove seeds.
The classic Roma tomato is egg to pear shaped, and usually small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Some cultivars are bred to be especially small at maturity, for use whole in salads and other dishes. Roma tomatoes can be red to yellow in color when they are mature, depending on the cultivar involved, and their moisture content varies, depending on the conditions where they were grown.
While a Roma tomato does not have a great deal of flavor, it does have a very long shelf life. Roma tomatoes hold their shape well when they are canned, and break down nicely in tomato sauces. Roasting Roma tomatoes can enrich their flavor, and they can also be blended with more flavorful tomato cultivars to create a more interesting sauce. In the middle of winter, when vegetables may be hard to obtain, canned Romas or frozen sauce can be a pleasant sight at the dinner table.
Vine-ripened Roma tomatoes have the best flavor, although they can be hard to obtain. When selecting Roma tomatoes at the market, look for firm specimens with smooth skins. Small green patches on the skin are fine, as they will resolve when the tomato fully ripens, but tomatoes with brown patches should be avoided. If the tomatoes are unripe, a few days at room temperature in a paper bag should be sufficient to ripen them.
Would-be tomato growers are going to need a sheltered spot in the garden which gets a lot of sun. The soil quality for tomatoes is not terribly important, although soil which has been enriched with compost or fertilizer tends to yield more robust plants. Tomatoes need a lot of water during their growing period, but they are very vulnerable to burns, so care should be taken to avoid splashing water on the leaves while watering.