Thursday, 3 September 2009
Paul Robeson Tomatoes
As should become apparent in the next few weeks as I post comment after comment about tomatoes, we bought a large and impressive collection of heritage and other interesting tomato seedlings in the spring. Now they are starting to produce ripe fruit.
This was a variety particularly recommended to us, and I can see why. Unlike their namesake, they are not terribly handsome, but they do make some very good eating. The skins are a dark ruby red with dark green shoulders, and the flesh is likewise a darkish red, with some green at the shoulders. When ripe, these are rather soft, although dense, and much more prone to splitting than some of the other tomatoes we grow. I note they need to be cut from the vine, not pulled, as pulling will likely damage the tomato - the stems are very thick and hard, unlike the ripe tomatoes. Because they are so soft when ripe, I expect you may have to grow them yourself to have them, or expect to pay highly at market - they will not have much of a shelf-life. They are a good tomato for Canadians to grow, though. Since they originated in Russia -Siberia in fact - they are adapted to a shorter growing season in less-than-perfect conditions. The name is still sometimes spelled in the Russian way; Pol Robeson. They were our 4th tomato to ripen, in spite of their large beefsteak tomato size, and the plants are producing in the top 80%, in terms of quantity (by weight) of tomatoes per plant.
The flavour really is very impressive; rich, fruity and tangy. "Smokey" is a word people often use to describe them. Their softness gives them a melt-in-the-mouth texture. They are dense enough to use in sauces as well, where their unique flavour will add depth. I see them working in bread-based dishes like panzanella and bruschetta.
I had no difficulties with them (or any other tomatoes this year) in terms of disease, but I note some people reporting them as very prone to late blight, and others reporting them as disease resistant, so who knows for sure? The vines are indeterminate, so at some point you may wish to pinch off the tops in order to encourage them to stop making tomatoes, and get on with the ones that are going already.
Last year at this time I made Herbed Cream Cheese Spread or Dip - would be very good with a slice or two of tomato on top...