Gigante di Rotonda Tomato
Sweet, meaty, and gorgeous Italian heirloom! This particular variety is called Gigante di Rotonda - or "Giant of Rotonda" - named for a mountain village in the southern part of Basilicata, which is best known for growing Melanzana Rossa di Rotonda - an Ethiopian species of eggplant that ripens red and looks like a tomato. This actual tomato is believed to be a variant of beefsteak (Cuore di Bue), and many of the fruits look the part. They are much larger than your average sauce or paste tomato, and taste delicious fresh in salsa or on bruschetta with olive oil. This variety was one of the top five chosen from our 2017 tomato taste tests.
While it is the flavor of this shapely tomato that landed it in a long row for seed production at our farm, it was its connection to Southern Italy that first brought it to my attention. In 2016, Evan Gregoire of Portland Seedhouse and I traded a bunch of seeds, and I asked him to send some southern favorites from his Italian tomato collection, since I like to connect to my ancestors and ancestral homes through seed keeping. For example, this tomato is from just a couple hours drive through the mountains from my great grandmother's village. Of course, tomatoes are originally from parts of South and Central America, and are believed to have been domesticated by the Aztecs, who named it Tomatl. The Spanish brought this fruit to Europe, and while it took a while to catch on as an edible food, its tendency to mutate/shapeshift brought about many new types that eventually were adopted for sauces, drying, pizza, and long term storage.
Days to maturity: 80
Seeds per pack: 25
Germination rate: 95% on 02/23/2023
Planting / harvesting notes
Start seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost and transplant into garden well after the danger of frost. We recommend you prune the suckers that form in the crotches of the branches by the main stem. Water tomatoes at the soil level, keeping the leaves dry. Stake tomatoes so that their leaves and branches are kept off the ground, for good airflow between plants, and for easier harvest.
Seed keeping notes
Tomatoes are generally self-pollinating, though we isolate different varieties by 35-50 feet, in hopes that flying insects will not cross pollinate them unexpectedly. Tomato seeds are ripe when the fruits are ready to eat! Cut the fruit at the equator and squeeze or scrape out seeds from each of the cavities. In a cup or bucket, add a little water (1/2" is probably plenty) to your seeds and pulp to keep them from drying out, and allow them to ferment away from direct sunlight. Ideally, you will stir the concoction every day for 3-5 days. In the end, add more water to fill the vessel, stir one final time, and allow to settle. Pour off the floating material and then strain the seeds through a strainer. Sometimes, you will need to add more water and pour off the floating material several times until the water is clear and you can see the seeds sunken at the bottom. Squeeze dry the strained seeds in a towel, and then lay out to dry on a labeled screen or paper product in a ventilated place away from direct sunlight for a week or two.TOM