Paul Robeson: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007

Part of Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007

Paul Robeson TomatoSo this is the infamous Paul Robeson tomato the heirloom lovers every where rave about. All you hear is Paul Robeson this and Paul Robeson that. I am feeling like if there was a tomato that would have paparazzi, this would be it. I am looking forward to trying this. I hope it lives up to the hype.

The description from the company I bought it from reads:

This famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs. They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavor that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey. 7-10 oz. fruit are a black-brick color. Named in honor of the famous opera singer star of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’, 1937. Paul Robeson was also a Russian and Equal Rights Advocate for Blacks. This Russian heirloom was lovingly named in his honor. We are proud to offer such a wonderful variety.

The Beauty Pageant:

Size: Medium size. A bit smaller than a baseball.

Shape: Round but not perfectly so. It looks almost like it had been a bit battered with a side a bit to flat or another side a bit too bulged. As you can see in the picture, the tomato is not crack resistant. (For anyone who cares, I am cooking up a huge batch of sauce tonight to make use of all my cracked tomatoes!)

The inside: Very wet and loose. There are several chambers inside with seeds in them and the multiple chamber walls mean that there is plenty of meat to these.

Texture: Not mealy but not as smooth as other tomatoes I have had..


Off the Vine Tasting: The gel has a good strong tangy tomato flavor and the meat is just a little sweet. The meat and skin near the green shoulders (which help to give it the purple color) is a bit on the bitter side.

Sliced and Salted Tasting: The tanginess goes completely away with salt and this becomes a rather sweet tasting tomato.

Cooking Thoughts: This tomato’s gel is too loose to serve as a side dish, though the flavor makes it a good candidate for that. Probably would make a nice bruschetta as the bread would soak up all the nice, juicy tomato flavor.

Growing Notes:
We have had an enormous amount of rain in the past week and a half so I can’t say how this tomato would do under normal conditions in regards to cracking. The plant is healthy and medium sized. Not too many fruit on it though. I am having a hard time deciding when these are ripe. Black and purple tomatoes get more and less dark depending on their growing conditions. This year all of my “black” tomatoes have come out looking half green rather than black due to conditions. I am constantly having to perform squeeze tests to decide if they are ripe.

Will Hanna grow this one again:
Maybe. It is kind of like the third movie in the summer blockbuster threequals that are so popular these days. That third movie is always “okay”. Not as good as the first, maybe better than the second was and is not a waste of your time and money but… you still remember that you have seen better before it.

13 thoughts on “Paul Robeson: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007
  1. You are rapidly becoming the tomato expert! I have really enjoyed your reviews. I live in an area where it’s a major accomplishment for a tomato to survive to maturity. We’ve harvested one, so far. We made a very big deal of it. 🙂 But, I have had great luck with the Russian heirlooms. Thanks for some very enjoyable reading.


  2. I have been knocking around the idea of trying Paul Robeson as my next Black tomato, but since so many people raved about it I was afraid I would end up disappointed… I am glad that you fixed that for me LOL!


  3. Melanie on

    I think all my tomatoes taste BLAH this year due to all the rain. It’s got to be the weather.
    Melanie from Shaker Heights


  4. Hanna on

    Kate – I am surprised by the russian varieties, just because who would have thought that a place so cold could produce so many tomato varieties.

    meowy – The are pretty. They are prettier when they get that “true black” color. I am going to have to look into further what conditions influence that.

    Melanie – I was thinking the same thing when I was tasting these. how much of the flavor is affected by the amount of water they get. It would just make sense. They crack b/c they are filled with water so it would only be logical that they would be “watered” down.


  5. When I lived on the farm, my ex-girlfriend would bring home tomato varieties for me to grow. I did the work and she ate them. She also brought home various chickens from our local fancy feather auction. I must admit I didn’t eat many of them as I am a cherry tomato lover. We moved to a new apartment this year and I planted a small landscape bed, but no tomatoes. In my last place I planted one slicer and one cherry. I always had plenty. Next year I will try some of these. Thanks for the info and keep them coming.


  6. Hanna on

    Donna – That was kind of why I started these tastings. It is so hard to decide what to grow and all you really have to go on is romour and what the seller tells you. I hope that you continue to find them useful!

    gus – Glad they were helpful!


  7. i grew this one too this year, as well as another black tomato called ‘Black from Tula’. I thought the ‘Black from Tula’ was superior to ‘Paul Robeson’ in every respect. But i cannot be absolutely sure about this, as the squirrels seem to prefer
    ‘Paul Robeson’ over all the tomatoes in the garden, so i have only been able to eat *one* and it wasn’t actually totally ripe.

    I should write up my tomato impressions this weekend!


  8. Hanna-I love your tomato tastings. It would be nice if you would do a round up of sorts of your favorites. Tomatoes that you always grow that have done well for you. I would love that.
    I also value your opinion of tomato tastes as they seem to be similar to what I want on a tomato. your blog rocks!


  9. kate – Thanks for the suggestion. I will certainly give Black from Tula a try. 🙂

    jen – That sounds like a fun idea. I will have to see if I can do a post like that after I have finished this year’s tastings.


  10. In 2009 we grew Paul Robeson in a planter and got numerous small to medium fruit that seemed very sweet. They were the most popular vs First Prize, Sioux, Celebrity and Giant Belgium. We will be devoting garden space for more Paul Robesons next year. The plant and fruit seemed to be disease resistant and the flavor was superlative, and we were able to leave the fruit on the vine long enough for it to become purple/black. The only problem was blossom end rot when the plant became calcium deficient.
    Thinning our plants and spraying with a combination of soap and neem oil seemed to keep the rot and pests to a minimum, versus 2008 when we tried Carbon and had a lot of trouble with both. We also improved the drainage in our garden and seemed to have less cracking, despite 2009 being one of the wettest years we can remember.


  11. We have numerous varieties in our garden this year. I’m a new grower, so I’m sure there are things I could have done to improve yield. Having said that, we have several varieties that were put in around April under polyethelene tarps; Slicers: Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mosckovitch, & Plack Prince. Cherries: Sweet 100’s, Yellow Pear, and an unknown variety). We also got a number of tomato plants that were freebies and planted late (May): 2 Oxhearts, & 2 Brandywines – they are green and growing some nice fruit.
    So far, I’ve only gotten to taste the sweet 100’s, pears, and ONE Robeson. The cherries are great, in particular the sweet 100’s are divine. But the Paul Robeson, was a really delicious tomato, perfect on toast with a little mayo. Also very sweet if just eaten by the slice.
    Can’t wait for the other slicers to come to ripeness. Just picked a very large cherokee this morning, letting it ripen a day or so before going in for the yum.

    Thanks for the great blog.



  12. Mark on

    Well, another summer, and much less success with tomatoes, except our one grape; it is covered with fruit. Both Paul Robesons have taken a beating with the horrible heat we have had this summer. Bugs have been worse, too. Makes us want to try chemicals. One PR died before the fruit matured. The other is now withering, but has made a handful of just gorgeous delicious fruits. They are sooo good, but the plants take up a lot of space for the amount of yield.

    I think that we may try more hot weather varieties next year.


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