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The Paul Robeson Tomato

Named after a famous activist and known for its particularly rich flavor, the Paul Robeson tomato is one of the best varieties of beefsteak tomatoes you will encounter. After one taste of it’s unique tangy and smoky flavor, you’ll be hooked.

Read on to find out more about the Paul Robeson tomato and learn just why you should take the time to grow some of your own.

Dish of dark red heirloom tomatoes like the fruit of the Paul Robeson tomato.

History of the Paul Robeson Tomato

The Paul Robeson tomato was named after an American actor, singer athlete, and human rights activist, Paul Robeson.

The tomato originates in Siberia, Russia, and was named in honor of Robeson for all his work. It was first introduced to the United States by a private seed seller, Marina Danilenko.

Characteristics of the Paul Robeson Tomato

The Paul Robeson is an indeterminate tomato plant, growing on lengthening vines that need to be trained to grow around stakes.

The seeds for the first Paul Robeson tomatoes grew in Siberia, making this a Russian heirloom tomato. The plant is grown all over the world from seeds.

Ripening Season

The Paul Robeson tomato has a long season, which begins in early spring and continues well into summer. The plants are prolific in their production of the fruit, so the season may be extended even into late summer.

Appearance

There is a group of tomatoes known as the ‘beefsteak’ tomatoes, which are big and juicy and are best eaten fresh from the plant. The Paul Robeson tomato is a beefsteak tomato, with its large, relatively wide shape. The fruits are deep red and can even become black as they ripen.

Closeup of dark red tomato on cutting board.

Taste

Biting into this tomato gives you a smoky taste that is slightly sweet. The tomato also has a bit of a tangy flavor, which contributes to its tastiness. It is also a juicy tomato, so the flavor is not only in the flesh.

Size

The fruits of the Paul Robeson tomato plant are large, around 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cms) and can weigh between 7 and 10 ounces (200 – 300 grams).

Planting Zones

You will find that most tomato plants can grow in a range of temperatures and different conditions. The Paul Robeson tomato is a particularly adaptable and hardy plant and can grow in hardiness zones 3 – 11.

Size and Spacing

An indeterminate tomato plant does not grow very high but can spread if it is not trained otherwise. You can plant your Paul Robeson tomato plants relatively close together (about 1 ½ feet / 50 cm) apart with stakes or a trellis onto which the vines can grow.

Planting tomatoes.

Pollination

Paul Robeson tomato plants are pollinated openly by different agents, including insects, birds, wind or humans. If an insect, such as a bee, visits the flowers of the plant, the pollen rubs onto their legs. When it moves onto another plant, the pollen rubs off onto that flower and pollination occurs. The wind can also transport pollen from one plant to another, or birds can as they visit the different plants.

Plant Care

The following sections will provide highlights about tomato care. For a complete guide on optimal tomato plant care, from planting to harvesting and storage, please check out our article on How To Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide For the Best Tomatoes.

Generally, tomato plants grow well and are fairly easy to cultivate. The Paul Robeson is one of the easiest tomatoes to grow, but you still need to make sure it has the correct conditions to help it to bear abundantly through summer.

Sunlight

All tomato plants need sun and the Paul Robeson is no exception. This means at least six hours of direct sun a day. In fact, this plant can do well with even more sun than the average tomato.

Soil

Like most tomato plants, the Paul Robeson needs well-drained, fertile soil. It is a hardy plant and can survive a range of temperatures and amounts of water, but does need relatively rich soil as a base to grow in.

Water

The Paul Robeson tomato is very adaptable and can survive in times of drought, or in water-restricted areas. This means it only needs to be watered about once a week, but don’t allow the soil to become too dry and hard. Likewise don’t flood the plant when you water it. Rather soak it with a steady spray, making sure that the soil is thoroughly dampened.

Watering tomato plant.

Fertilizer

Tomatoes require specific nutrients (such as calcium) to produce their best crops of fruit. To learn how to determine what your tomatoes need and when they need it, consult our ultimate tomato fertilizer guide.

Pruning/Pinching

Pruning and pinching are a tomato care technique that can help your tomato put forth its best yield. But you need to know when to do this and what tomatoes need it. To help you with this, visit our pruning tomatoes guide.

Disease

One of the most common diseases that affects a tomato plant is Verticillium Wilt, a fungus that grows in warm conditions.

The signs of Verticillium wilt are that the top leaves wilt and the lower leaves turn yellow, then die and drop. The fungus cannot be treated with fungicide, so you need to do what you can to prevent it from attacking your plant.

To learn how to detect, treat, and take steps to prevent diseases, read our tomato diseases guide.

Closeup of a black currant leaf infected with Verticillium Wilt
Black Currant leaf showing signs of Verticillium Wilt.

Pests

Some of the most common pests that affect Paul Robeson tomatoes are fruit fly and Budworm. Fruit flies lay their eggs in the tomatoes. Look out for sections of the skin that seem to be rotting, or developing spots.

Budworm larvae tunnel into the tomatoes and destroy the flesh inside. Again, there are no insecticides to treat budworm, so you need to look out for any signs of the larvae on the skin of the tomatoes. You can use a low toxic spray to treat them.

For information to help you spot, eliminate, and deter 15 different pests, visit our guide on common tomato pests.

When to Harvest Paul Robeson Tomatoes

This variety of tomato has a long season, beginning in spring and lasting through most of the summer. This means it can be harvested at any time from mid-spring.

Common Uses of Paul Robeson tomatoes

Because the Paul Robeson tomato has a strong, pleasant taste, it is popular in a variety of ways.

Overhead of view of dark red heirloom tomato on cutting board.

Cooking

Paul Robeson tomatoes are used as fried green tomatoes, a popular addition to breakfast. They can also be cut up and added to stews and casseroles.

Eating raw

All beefsteak tomatoes are well-known for being most enjoyable when eaten raw, even straight from the plant.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

The Paul Robeson tomato can be preserved effectively, by canning, freezing or drying. Blanched and peeled tomatoes can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. Canned tomatoes can be kept for longer. Here is an article that will take you through the process of canning tomatoes.

Recipe Ideas

The smoky, sweet, and tangy taste of a Paul Robeson tomato makes it perfect for dishes like

Tomato Sauce

Tomato Tarts

Tomato Bredie

Overhead view of tomato tart.

Health Benefits of Paul Robeson Tomatoes

Like all tomatoes, the Paul Robeson is rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. One of the most important benefits is that the tomatoes contain lycopene, which can help to prevent cancer. The dark pigment in the Paul Robeson tomato also means the fruit has a high content of anthocyanin, which is also beneficial with regards to preventing cancer.

Where To Buy Paul Robeson Tomato Plants Or Seeds

Seeds for the Paul Robeson tomato can be bought from some nurseries and garden stores, or online at Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, or Amazon.com.

Check with your local nursery or garden shop to find out if you can buy Paul Robeson tomato plants. They are also available online from GrowJoy or Piedmont Farm and Garden.

Where To Buy Paul Robeson Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes just aren’t something you’ll find in your large grocery store produce departments. You may want to call specialty produce stores in your area to ask if they ever carry Paul Robesons. Otherwise, if you happen to live in a garden zone Paul Robesons can grow in, your best bet is to visit farmers markets or contact nearby tomato farms to see if any of them grow this tomato variety.

Wrapping Up the Paul Robeson Tomato

Closeup of dark red heirloom tomato.

The one word that can be used for the Paul Robeson tomato is “versatile.” It can tolerate a range of temperatures and weather conditions in the garden. It’s an easy tomato to grow and it has a long season. The fruit can be preserved, cooked, and enjoyed raw. Most important of all, it tastes really good! If you’re looking for a dependable tomato with a crop you’ll enjoy harvesting, then a Paul Robeson tomato might be a great fit for your garden.

Have you grown Paul Robesons or do you know where to buy the fruit during tomato season? Let us know about it in the comments section below! If you’re serious about tomatoes, click this link to read our other tomato variety blog posts.