It is more than certain that you consumed a tomato today or at least did so unknowingly. If you did it unknowingly, then it is clear that what you ate was a sauce or paste hidden inside the meal and this sauce was either an Amish paste or Roma or any other ovoid tomato variety.

Indeed, plum tomatoes, which are the main source of pastes and sauce, are nicknamed with these two names: sauce tomatoes and paste tomatoes because of their taste-savvy characteristics. They look like pears and, as you may already know, their appearance suggests a bright red pear.

Let’s look at plum tomatoes in detail: varieties, characteristics and other attributes of these carotene-rich sauce vegetables.

What are plum tomatoes?

Plum tomatoes are small-to-medium sized, oblong-shaped tomato varieties that also go by the  scientific name Lycopersicon lycopersicum. They are a bit larger than the cherry tomato variety and less juicy.

They have a characteristic bright red color that is attractive to the eye due to its good distribution. Their high lycopene composition which gives them their color, is a secondary nutrient for bone and oral health. 

Plum tomatoes easily reinforce the fact that tomatoes rank only second to potatoes in terms of vegetable importance, globally. This is because plum tomatoes feature in common daily recipes. They are less juicy than other varieties, making them suitable  for preparing cosmopolitan foods like pizzas and the typical paste.

Plum tomatoes nutrition 

The high content of carotenoids and vitamin A in plum tomatoes makes them highly nutritious vegetables for the immune system, improved sight and prevention of some tumor diseases. Key components include:

  • Energy-giving nutrients equal to 11.4 kilo-calories or 2.43 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 1595.6 micrograms (mcg) of lycopene, good for oral health.
  • 516.46 IU (varying mg contents per country) of Vitamin A for promoting eye health. There are also carotene levels above 62 mcg.
  • Bone-nurturing calcium content equivalent to 6.2 milligrams per serving.
  • 146.94 milligrams of potassium.

Besides, plum tomatoes have appreciable vitamin C content (at 7.87 mg per fruit) for promoting good immunity.

Related: Nutritional composition of cherry tomatoes

How to grow and care for plum tomatoes

Growing plum tomatoes is not a complicated process. You normally follow a similar pattern as you do in cherry tomato cultivation with these extra caveats:


  1. Start by sowing the seeds indoors from 1 and a half months to two months ahead of the final spring frost. This helps give the seedlings enough time to sprout and grow defenses against future cold weather.
  2. Provide the plum tomato seedlings with sufficient light by keeping their moistened soil containers, preferably, on the window sill.
  3. Use non-synthetic fertilizers every two weeks and ensure the fertilizer is in liquid form for easy penetration around the roots.
  4. After they are tall enough for transplanting, you need to adopt these seedlings to the tough garden environment by removing them to a shade for several days beforehand.
  5. You can then transfer the grown plum tomatoes from their seedling beds and plant them in rows in an open, well-saturated soil environment. Ensure that each stem goes two thirds of the way underneath to ensure strong rooting.


Plum tomatoes are nature-loving vegetables and need some minimum eight hours of direct solar rays to put up color in their fruits. Besides, compost manure and other organic fertilizers are a must to ensure the soil remains fertile for nutrient uptake. Watering should occur on the subsoil area around the plant rather than on the plant itself. This ensures that the plant does not catch fungal infection if night finds it with soggy leaves, a common cause of wilting.

Plum tomato types/varieties

The plum tomato varieties can be broken down to five types below.

Amish Paste tomato

The Amish paste tomato is one of the finest heirloom types that develop medium-sized acorn-shaped fruits. The fruits are a deep-seated scarlet in tint and are thick-skinned enough to withstand the elements. No wonder they are mostly open-pollinated, making them the perfect natural heirloom tomatoes out there.

They make the best paste among most tomatoes outside the plum species because they are drier inside, making them easy to cook and mix with other ingredients at a fast pace and before you know it, you are salivating for more.

Big Mama Tomatoes

Among all plum tomato varieties, big mama tomatoes reach the most appealing size at 5 inches diameter, and besides, they have shapely pear-shaped tips at their nether ends.

They boast plenty of fleshy innards and besides, a little boiling allows you to peel their thin skins whole so as to make a non-messy sauce out of their low juice flesh. These varieties can be hybrid or heirloom (bush-style) types.

Roma tomatoes

Roma tomatoes rank among the most popular exported  tomato varieties in many parts of the world, including Africa. Like their plum cousins, they also boast the shapely appearance, mostly egg-like, have thick skins and feature low seed count.

The lack of juiciness inside the cut fruit, accentuated by the thick fleshy dry interior, makes for good cooking as the slices add up into a sumptuous sauce to go with any meal. This is why this variety is almost always a popular source of commercial paste.

Italian plum tomato (San Marzano tomatoes)

Commonly known as Italian plum tomato, the San Marzano tomatoes are resilient wild-adopted types that produce heavily.

This organic quality makes them indispensable paste elements in most Mediterranean diets including pizza and sauces.

Their plum-shaped or pear-shaped appearance is striking to the eye. They weigh five to six ounces, their skins are thin unlike that of the Amish Paste type, but their flesh compensates by being full of meat and low in juice.

Costoluto Fiorentino

These are probably the most easily identifiable of all tomato species because of their ribbed, flattened out bodies.

They are three times wider than they are tall, at the ratio of 4 to 1 inches breadth and height respectively.

Their heirloom quality makes them welcome plants in tropical, Mediterranean and even temperate environments. Though a little juicy, they make good pastes when slowly cooked.

How to choose the best plum tomato when buying 

When you go out buying plum tomatoes, you may be spoilt for choice because of the wide variety and the hindrance of your own good taste, but here are the basics for choosing the best for your needs:

  • Go for certified products. If you look closely in your greengrocer’s store, you will notice some tomatoes, especially the San Marzano type, with special stickers of quality, known as D.O.P., in the US.
  • Choose whole fruits instead of canned ones as you cannot guarantee the quality of the canned ones.
  • Select plum tomatoes based on your intention: if you are choosing for roasting purposes, Costoluto Fierentino will do the trick while thick sauce-making purposes will go with almost any other plum tomato variety.
  •  Look at color and shape as this will indicate that it is a plum tomato. They all have pear shapes and deep red skins.

Plum tomatoes vs roma tomatoes

While they share some similarities, there are key differences between the two:

  • Shape and size: Plum tomatoes are typically more elongated and oval-shaped, while Roma tomatoes are more oblong and somewhat cylindrical. In general, plum tomatoes are slightly smaller than Roma tomatoes.
  • Flavor: Plum tomatoes tend to have a sweeter taste with a lower acidity, while Roma tomatoes are known for their more robust, tangy flavor. However, the flavor of both types can vary depending on growing conditions and ripeness.
  • Flesh and seeds: Plum tomatoes have a firmer flesh with fewer seeds, which makes them ideal for making sauces and pastes. Roma tomatoes have a similar texture, but they are slightly juicier and have more seeds.
  • Skin: Plum tomatoes have a thinner skin compared to Roma tomatoes, which have a thicker, tougher skin. This can make a difference in certain dishes where the texture of the skin is important.
  • Usage: Both plum and Roma tomatoes are versatile and can be used in various dishes, but plum tomatoes are often preferred for making sauces, salsas, and pastes due to their lower water content and sweeter taste. Roma tomatoes are great for salads, sandwiches, and cooking, as they hold their shape well when heated.
  • Availability: Both plum and Roma tomatoes are widely available in grocery stores and farmers’ markets. However, you might find that Roma tomatoes are more common in North America, while plum tomatoes are more popular in Europe.

Plum tomatoes vs cherry tomatoes

The major difference between plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are size, growth patterns and content.

  • While plum tomatoes can range between 2 and 5 inches in girth size, cherries are diminutive in size.
  • Plum tomatoes have a determined fruit-production cycle while cherry tomatoes can go several months producing in indeterminate fashion.
  • Cherries grow in vines while plum tomatoes can thrive in pots or gardens.
  • Cherry tomatoes are quite juicy while the plum types have dry fleshy innards.

Plum tomatoes size

The common size of plum tomatoes is 2 to 2.5 inches in width but can reach 5 inches in width when you take into consideration the Big Mama variety. The median range is 4 inches breadth, for Costoluto Fierentino.

Number of plum tomatoes in a pound

If you are keen to make a mouth-watering one pound of sauce from tomatoes, then you will require at least four Roma tomato-sized fruits. If you only have small plum tomatoes, then you may need eight of these to make one pound.

Plum tomatoes price

Based on data from early May 2023, the price of plum tomatoes in the US for each 25 pounds is $10 at the lowest – priced locations (Baltimore, Virginia) and $28.50 in the costliest location (Chicago, Illinois). This last price converts to $1.14 a pound.

Check out more price insights relating to US tomato prices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are more answers to some of the questions that might fill your mind if you plan to use or even grow plum tomatoes.

Are Roma tomatoes and plum tomatoes the same?

The bottom line is that Roma tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes and because of the popularity of the Roma, some confuse all plum tomatoes to be Roma. The truth is that it is just one of the many varieties of plum tomatoes.

What is the difference between plum tomatoes and regular tomatoes?

Plum tomatoes differ from regular tomatoes on the water content aspect. They are drier and fleshier inside than regular tomatoes, which have higher juice content. This makes plum types good for making sauce and paste as they cook faster than their juicy regulars. The plum tomato is also redder and higher than regular tomatoes in lycopene content.

What type of tomato is a plum?

A tomato passes as a plum if it is pear-shaped, is small-to-medium in size, has low juicy flesh and is suitable for canning and making sauce. Many call all plum tomatoes ‘Roma tomatoes.’

What are plum tomatoes good for?

Plum tomatoes are good for paste and sauce-making. They also make good roasting culinary partners.

Can you substitute Roma tomatoes for plum tomatoes?

Roma and plum tomatoes can be substituted in terms of recipe-making uses but not in terms of taste. In most cases, you can substitute Roma tomatoes for plum tomatoes as long as you are making canned paste, puree and other thick sauce recipes.

Which tomato is closest to Roma?

The Amish paste tomatoes are the closest to Roma tomatoes in terms of looks, because both are pear-shaped. However, they slightly differ in taste as Amish types range in-between sweet and strong aroma.