Monday, 7 September 2009

Amish Paste Tomatoes & Opalka Tomatoes

Amish Paste Tomatoes
Amish paste tomatoes, above, and Opalka tomatoes, below.

Opalka Tomatoes

I figured I'd double up on these ones, as they are quite similar in my experience. These are both paste tomatoes; that is, they were developed for cooking and canning, rather than eating fresh, although they are both very decent to downright tasty tomatoes raw, when fresh from the garden. I have found them both productive of very large, long red fruits that ripen at about the same time (on the early side) and are produced at about the same rate. In short, if I couldn't get one I'd be happy to get the other. I do want to grow at least one of these each year though, and in fairly large numbers, as these are our standard paste tomatoes; the ones that do better than any others we've tried thus far, including modern hybrids. This is true not only of this years' garden (new and experimental, after all) but was also true in the various allotment gardens we have had over the years.

According to Tatiana's Tomato Base, Amish Paste came out of an Amish community in Medford, Wisconsin, and dates from as far back as the 1870's. Tom Hauch of Heirloom Seeds collected it in Pennsylvania from another Amish community, and from him it found its way into the Seed Savers Exchange and thus came into wide circulation. It is now readily available from many of the smaller seed houses.

People in cooler, variable climates such as ours tend to give it better reports than growers in the southern U.S., although most growers seem to agree that the plants are very disease resistant, particularly to blight. These tomatoes are a little shorter and chunkier than the Opalka, although they seem to be quite variable; perhaps due to growing conditions, or perhaps depending on where you source your seeds. Mine have always been a bit longer than most people's photos show. That's the fruit; there are quite a few reports out there of the vines reaching 6' or 7' in height or more, but mine have never reached more than 4'. The vines are indeterminate.

In addition to eating fresh, cooking and canning, these are apparently also good dried - a very versatile tomato, and if you can only grow a few plants this is definitely one to consider.

The Opalka tomato comes to us via Poland, although it's been in North America since around 1900. Seeds were passed on to tomato maven Carolyn Male by a co-worker. She passed it on to Seed Savers Exchange, and mentioned it in her book "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden". It is similar to the Polish Linguisa tomato.

Opalka too is a paste tomato, but with longer fruit than the Amish Paste, perhaps slightly curved, with a definite recessed tip or nipple on the end. It could be mistaken for an Italian red pepper quite easily. It's an indeterminate plant as well, but the foliage often seems a bit thin and wispy. That doesn't seem to stop it from producing plenty of fruit. It may be a bit susceptible to blossom end rot, but I have not had any noticeable problems with it. It seems to otherwise have fairly good disease resistance. The tomatoes do not contain a great deal of seed - nice for eating, but a bit frustrating for growers. (Amish Paste is a little seedier, but not a terribly seedy tomato in my experience either.)

Like Amish Paste, Opalka is completely versatile: eat it fresh, cook or can it, or dry it. Both tomatoes should start ripening about 85 days from transplanting.

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