Pros: Distinctive appearance, early production, exceptional flavor for a paste tomato.
Cons: None that I have seen.
Each year I inevitably succumb to the lure of trying a few new plants in my garden. It's always exciting to see what does well for me and what performs indifferently or proves not too great in the kitchen. I've grown paste tomatoes for many years for the purposes of making tomato sauce, but until now I had never come across a paste tomato that stood out as exceptional. This year I tried two new paste tomatoes, and the Speckled Roman is a clear winner.
First of all, the fruit of this variety is simply lovely to look at. It has patterns which resemble the "graffiti" type eggplants, irregular narrow stripes of two colors all over the surface, in this case red and yellow. The fruits are wide near the stem, with a nearly flat top, and then taper down to a delicate point. (What I have seen in my garden doesn't really match the image associated with this product in the epinions database.) Overall, the fruit is heart-shaped, as in, the shape of an actual anatomical heart, not the shape on playing cards. This is one of the largest fruits of any paste tomato I've ever seen. They average 5.5 to 6.5 ounces.
I grew my three Roman Speckled plants from seed this year and saw good germination rates. The plants produced fruit early - as early as my first few cherry tomatoes, and the fruit set is moderately abundant. As is typical for a paste tomato, the flesh of the fruit is "dry," meaning there are open cavities inside that are not completely full of pulp and seeds. What really impressed me with this tomato is that the flavor is good enough for a slicing tomato, even the earliest fruits. Typically I don't see tomatoes worth eating in the raw until the hottest days in the height of August. That Speckled Roman gave me the first tomatoes worth eating from my garden by late July, and that they were paste tomatoes is rather unbelievable. But I'll take it. I expect it'll be another week at least before any of my beefsteak tomatoes are ready for harvest.
I've made one batch of tomato sauce from the Speckled Romans so far. The sauce is lighter in color than some from other paste tomatoes in other years, reflecting the slightly pale orange-red flesh of this variety. But I don't mind the color because the flavor is excellent.
I'm delighted with my new discovery in the paste tomato category. I've previously grown Marzano, Super Marzano, Amish Paste, and standard Roma for my paste tomato needs. None of them have impressed me much one way or the other and some of them produced poorly. At best they filled a need without distinction. In future years I will stick with the Roman Speckled. My days of experimentation in the area of paste tomato are over. If you're looking for a good performer in this category, I would suggest you try the Speckled Roman.