Many of us grow paste-type tomatoes especially for cooking. Let's take a closer look at Roma and Viva Italia.
These two popular tomato varieties, belonging to the group called Italian, paste, or plum, are commonly grown for cooking.
Roma: Probably the best known of all the paste-type tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are the ones you commonly can buy fresh in our supermarkets. They are commercially grown and processed for all sorts of tomato products we find on our supermarket shelves.
Roma is an open-pollinated, determinate mid-season (75 day) variety that sets one large crop. The fruits are red. I have heard of yellow-fruited Golden Roma, but I have never actually seen or grown any.
Viva Italia: The first hybrid paste tomato. Developed for cooking, canning, or freezing, Viva Italia works well either as a paste-type tomato or fresh in salsa and salad.
Viva Italia is a determinate mid-season (72 day) hybrid paste tomato with excellent disease resistance. Classic, blocky, pear-shaped Roma type tomatoes set well even during hot weather. Although determinate, Viva Italia is a vigorous grower, thus ensuring abundant fruit set.
Both Roma and Viva Italia have few seeds in red fruit. Both are relatively thick-skinned varieties, containing less water than the non-paste types.
High sugar content makes Viva Italia taste good right off the vine, while Roma really needs cooking to intensify its flavor. Viva Italia sets fruit more abundantly in hot weather than Roma. Roma is highly prone to blossom end rot, while Viva Italia rarely is bothered by BER. Roma has stood the test of time from its introduction in 1955. Viva Italia, much newer, is becoming more popular each year.
Roma plants usually stay smaller in size while Viva Italia makes a much taller plant. And remember, if you save seeds Roma will work for you, while seeds of Viva Italia will not come true.
Stay with Roma if:
You save seeds from year to year.
Your tomatoes never get blossom end rot.
You need a determinate short plant.
You always cook or process your harvest.
Switch to Viva Italia if:
You buy seeds or plants instead of saving seed from year to year.
You lose much of your crop to blossom end rot.
You have room for a taller, larger, more vigorous plant.
You use the tomatoes fresh as well as cooked.
You want a more disease-resistant tomato plant.
You want better fruit set during hot weather.
You want to try something newer.
I don't save seeds and can always find seedlings for both Roma and Viva Italia in my local nursery in spring. While I grew Roma for many years in the past, I have now switched to Viva Italia for my paste tomatoes. I am very pleased with my Viva Italias.