which tomato plants

Which Tomato Plants to Buy for Canning?

Planning to buy tomato plants at the nursery or garden center this year?

If you intend to grow tomatoes for canning, look for the words paste, plum, or sauce on the plant label description. These words mean that the fruit is firmer, less juicy, and in most cases less seedy; perfect attributes for creating thick, rich canned tomato, pizza, marinara, and spaghetti sauce – usually in about one-half the cooking time, or less! Sometimes as little as 30 minutes.

Paste tomatoes yield thicker home-canned salsas and crush pack tomato products (also called “stewed tomatoes”) as well.

Popular varieties for canning

Popular names to look for at your local garden center include Roma and San Marzano, along with well known heirloom, Amish Paste. If you shop your local farmers market you will likely see more variety. Ask the farmer which ones are best for canning

Roma tomatoes

Another clue

Fruit, if pictured on the plant label, will be oval rather than round.

cubed tomatoes

*Two secret tips

Upwards of 90% of the tomato plants sold are slicing, salad, and cherry tomatoes – great for salads, burgers, fresh salsa, and snacking, but too watery to can when fully ripe.

#1 If slicing tomatoes are what you have, pick them just shy of fully ripe while they are still barely firm, and preserve them like paste tomatoes. Barely underripe tomatoes contain higher levels of pectin, which thickens sauces and helps tomato cubes in salsas and crush pack tomatoes hold their shape and texture.

Dad's Sunset tomatoes

#2 If you have slicing tomatoes that are fully ripe and juicy, you can cook down to 1/3 of their original volume to yield sauce for canning. If the sauce is still too thin, add a can of tomato paste to rectify it.

This works even if your tomatoes are a color other than red. Yellow, orange, white, pink, burgundy, purple, and black tomatoes can all benefit from a can of tomato paste. Just be prepared for a color change in your finished product.

small harvests of 3 tomatoes

Plan, Plant, and Preserve!

Gather your canning recipes, plan your plantings, and make this your best year for preserving tomatoes ever!

You CAN fill your pantry with homemade tomato products that are more delicious and inexpensive than their comparable commercial counterparts. Spaghetti, chili, pizza, soups, stews, and many Mexican and Italian-inspired dishes are made more memorable and tasty when you begin with a jar of your very own garden-grown, home-canned tomatoes.

Comparing apples to apples or tomatoes to tomatoes

A quick check of the shelves at your locally owned grocery store reveals plenty of ho-hum tomato products. Don’t compare your homegrown, home-canned tomatoes to these mass label productions!

Are your tomatoes organic? Compare with organic tomato products.

Did you add herbs? Look for herb-flavored tomatoes.

Your tomatoes are in jars; look for jarred tomato products.

You may even have grown heirloom tomato varieties which you won’t find in any store.

The true worth of your tomato products is more than the shelf tag at the grocery store might indicate.

Pictured: 1) Sitting while cutting tomatoes is more comfortable for me. 2) A variety of tomatoes, some paste and some slicing. 3) Crush pack tomatoes canned with herbs. These are a GREAT meal starter for soups, stews, chili, and a lot of Mexican and Italian dishes.

Purchase a stainless steel water bath canner (or two) here. It can also serve as a stock pot for giant pots of bone broth and a cheesemaking pot! I have used mine for a crowd-sized pot of vegetable soup for an inexpensive Soup Party. Adding a second stainless steel water bath canner to your kitchen allows you to use one as a cooking pot for reducing tomatoes and other fruit like apples into sauce, while the other is heating jars to can.

There are many, many more varieties of tomatoes available as seeds from online seed houses. Consider growing your own from seed next year, if you have the tools to do so.

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