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The Roma Tomato

Love tomatoes? Then you must know about one of the most popular tomatoes out there — the Roma tomato. Often a key ingredient in tomato paste and sauces, these plum tomatoes are one of the best varieties for canning as well.

Mostly grown in the United States, Mexico, Australia, and Great Britain, these tomatoes are renowned across the world. Also known as Italian plum tomatoes, these juicy tomatoes are slender, offer a balanced flavor, and are firm to the touch.

If you’ve ever thought about growing your own Romas at home instead of buying them in the store, then keep reading to learn all about them!

Cluster of red Roma tomatoes on the vine.

History of Roma Tomatoes

Tomatoes originated in South America and were first cultivated in Mexico. Tomato plants were then introduced in Europe in the 1600s by Spanish explorers.

Fresh-picked local tomatoes were embraced by the Spanish and Italians, but Northern Europeans were suspicious of them. They believed that the tomato was poisonous and only used them as decorations.

With the help of enthusiastic gardeners such as Thomas Jefferson, tomatoes began to be widely consumed in the USA by the mid-1800s.

They are now considered staple foods across the world.

Roma tomatoes are an open-pollinated variety of tomatoes and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed them in Maryland in 1955.

They descended from the Italian San Marzano Tomato, and have a few unique characteristics.

Characteristics of Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are hybrid tomatoes.

The determinate Roma plants reach a height of around 3 feet when mature. They are resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt – reflected in their full name, Roma VF.

Closeup of Roma tomatoes on the vine.

Ripening Season

Roma tomatoes are summer fruits and require planning to ensure that there is a continuous crop of ripe fruits throughout summer.

Typically, Romas are ready to harvest around 100 to 120 days after their seeds are planted. Since they’re mid-season tomatoes, transplanted seedlings mature into ripe tomatoes after around 75 days.

Tomato Qualities

This plum tomato type is elongated with an egg or pear shape, has a bright red, thick peel, and a lot of solids. Roma tomatoes also have fewer seeds and aren’t as juicy as regular tomatoes.

Roma tomatoes have a generally balanced taste, but their raw tomato flavor can also be considered naturally sweet or tart.

Tomato Size

Romas are larger than cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. The Roma fruit size is around 3 inches long and can weigh about 2 ounces.

Roma tomatoes in a basket for a market display.

Planting Zones

Roma tomatoes can grow within the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) plant hardiness zones 3 to 11. Keep in mind that these summer-loving fruits thrive best between 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

Size and Spacing

The Romas can grow between 4 to 6 feet tall so to ensure the best quality tomatoes, plant them 24-36 inches apart in a row. Plant your rows 36-48 inches apart.

Pollination

Roma tomatoes are self-pollinating and only need nature to get the job done (bees and wind).

Yellow tomato blossoms.

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.

Roma tomatoes need the basic care the average tomato variety requires.

Sunlight

Tomatoes need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. This is to ensure maximum growth as these are warm tomatoes.

Soil

Their soil requirements include proper drainage, and soil that is warm and rich in organic content. Slightly acidic soil is tolerable, although Romas do best with pH levels ranging between 6 to 6.5

Water

Roma tomatoes, once planted, need to be watered at least once a week since they need plenty of water. A Roma planted in your garden requires about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week.

However, if you are growing Romas in a pot or container, you’ll need to water them twice a day.

Watering tomatoes planted in containers.

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

Roma tomatoes are bush varieties and do not require pruning. You can still trim the plant to get rid of any unwanted and damaged areas, but don’t overdo it as this could affect the yield.

Disease

Roma tomatoes are resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt, but they can be affected by late blight and blossom end rot. To learn how to detect, treat, and take steps to prevent diseases, read our tomato diseases guide.

Pests

Tomato hornworms are the most common pests that can feed off the leaves and fruits of your Roma tomatoes. They can cause significant damage so make sure that you pick them off if you spot any! For information to help you spot, eliminate, and deter 15 different pests, visit our guide on common tomato pests.

When To Harvest Roma Tomatoes

A Roma’s exterior is firmer to the touch than other tomatoes, even when unripe. The best way to know when your Romas are ready for picking is when the vegetable achieves an even shade of deep red, pink, or orange all over.

Romas don’t tolerate frost well. If the temperature outside falls to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) and below, you’ll want to pick them right away. If they’re still a bit green, continue ripening them inside paper bags and store them in temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius).

These are the perfect tomatoes for canned tomato products since they tend to ripen in large batches.

Roma tomatoes in various stages of ripeness on the vine.

Shelf Life

You’ll be glad to know that Romas have one of the longest shelf lives among tomatoes (second only to the Sofol variety) and last up to 15 days after picking. Keep in mind that the 15 days only applies to Romas that are refrigerated. If you don’t refrigerate your tomatoes, consume them within a week.

Your Romas have started to go bad when you notice the following:

  • The flesh becomes tender in areas and may leak juices from the inside.
  • Mold begins developing on the surface.
  • Fruit flies begin circling them.

Common Uses For Roma Tomatoes

A single Roma tomato contains 11 calories and a gram of fiber. This makes them a popular choice for tomato salads and vegetarian foods. They can also be used in vegan foods as well.

Roma tomatoes are most commonly used for sauces, pastes, and for canning. They retain a fresh tomato smell even after being preserved for long periods.

Roma tomatoes under running water.

What Does Roma Tomato Taste Like?

Roma tomatoes are available in a few popular varieties:

  • Plum Regal – a flavorful, fleshy, dark red variety
  • Sunrise Sauce – it has a sweet flavor and is ideal for sauces and pastes
  • Heinz – the most popular for tomato paste, these are large, flavorful, and rich in lycopene
  • Martino’s Roma – dark red, pear-shaped tomatoes that are sweet and flavorful

Cooking

Fresh tomatoes can be used in all kinds of recipes that require cooking from fresh tomato sauce and pizza sauce to tomato soup. They also taste delicious when roasted and put on bruschetta!

Eating Raw

Unlike beefsteak red tomatoes, Roma tomatoes are not as juicy or as sweet which is why they’re more commonly cooked than eaten raw. However, they taste delicious in salads and even in sandwiches!

Salad with lettuce, cheese, spices, and Romas.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Canning, freezing, or drying – what should you do with all your Romas? Each method has its own pros and cons. Depending on what you want out of your Roma tomatoes, you can select the best way to preserve your harvest.

Recipes

Food Network’s Kitchen has tons of easy recipes you can use to make the most of the tomato season.

Some basic, go-to recipes you can use Roma tomatoes for include:

You can whip up a quick tomato sauce for all kinds of dishes. The tomato flavor pairs well with olive oil!

Closeup of a plate of Bucatini all'Amatriciana, a pasta dish with a tomato sauce.

Health Benefits of Roma Tomatoes

Romas are great for health. A source of potassium, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients, they also have loads of benefits from the vitamin A family. Some of these include:

  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Lycopene

They help improve your vision, boost immunity, and lower the risk of cancer. They are also rich in antioxidants that make your skin look great!

Where To Buy Roma Tomato Plants or Seeds

You can purchase Roma tomato plants or seeds from any local nursery or even a big box hardware store garden center (such as Lowe’s). They’re simple to grow and you can even use the seeds from tomatoes you already have!

Where To Buy Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are available across the globe. It’s likely you’ll find them at your nearest grocery store.

However, if you aren’t able to source them, you can substitute them with:

  • San Marzano tomatoes
  • Plum tomatoes
  • Ropreco tomatoes

Conclusion

Closeup of picked Roma tomatoes.

The Roma tomato is a kitchen staple. These versatile fruits are suitable for eating fresh, cooking, roasting, drying, or canning. You can grow them in a garden bed or a container — either way, the bountiful fruits of your labor will be delicious. Tomato connoisseurs agree this tomato is worthy of attention. Plant a Roma in your garden this spring and look forward to enjoying fruit picked right off the vine!

Have you grown Romas in your garden? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section below! To read about other tasty tomatoes, click here for our other tomato blog posts.