In Tuscany, Italy, the Principe Borghese tomato (genus/species Lycopersicon esculentum) can be found filling backyards. The small one to two inch tomato is most often used in sauces and pastes for cooking because of having less juice off the vine than other varieties. Its flavor intensifies after drying, making it perfect for sauces and pastes.
If you're growing your own principe borghese, you'll likely be very happy with how they produce. A prolific plant that yields clusters of tomatoes in abundance, it's a great choice whether you're growing for your own family and friends' use or for selling in the market.
The plants are very hardy, with gardeners raving about their ability to keep producing under conditions that ruin most other tomato varieties (intense heat, excess flooding, etc). The tomatoes should be planted in full sun and spaced at least two feet apart because they can grow quite large (up to six feet).
While very hardy, they need plenty of water, but fare better using a drip system rather than spraying or pouring water directly on their fruit or leaves. It's recommended that you use a daily timer to ensure proper watering.
Flea beetles can be very destructive to this variety of tomato, so use Pyrethrin or crop row covers early in the growing season to protect the plants. Hornworns are also a problem, and can be controlled by using Bacillus thuringienses (also known as B.T.).
For diseases like blight, crop rotation is the best defense. Be sure to rotate the plants no less than every three years. Also be sure to destroy all vines at the end of the year to prevent disease spread by the rotting of the plants.
To store these tomatoes, it's recommended that you freeze them whole or after having been dried. In Italy the plants are typically hung in a dry, cool place with the tomatoes attached to the vines. When winter comes the tomatoes are harvested from the vines, soaked in olive oil or water and then used to make tasty sauces.
Traditionally in Italy the tomatoes are left on the vine (with the water restricted as the fruit starts to ripen) and then harvested vine and all, after which they are hung up and dried.
Although they are mostly used for sauces and tomato paste, you can certainly eat them fresh in the uncooked pasta sauce loved by Italians in summertime. Just slice the tomatoes into quarters and mix with fresh minced garlic, fresh basil leaves and hot peppers if you like it spicy. Use plenty of salt on the tomatoes and add some extra-virgin olive oil. Allow the mixture to marinate at room temperature for a few hours before use, adding grated parmesan to taste when you add it to your favorite pasta.
The jury is split on whether or not eating the tomatoes fresh off the vine without drying is a good idea. Some people love them, others find them to have too little flavor without being dried. As drying tomatoes go, though, they are tough to beat for a flavor-rich sauce or paste.
If you're looking for a hardy tomato for drying and creating traditional Tuscan recipe sauces with, the Principe Borghese tomato is the way to go.
About the Author: Jonathan Leger is a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site dedicated to the education, history and caring of a variety of roses at CabbageRoses.net