Paul Robeson History: What Are Paul Robeson Tomatoes

Paul Robeson is an heirloom tomato cult classic. Loved by seed savers and tomato enthusiasts both for its distinct flavor and for its fascinating namesake, it is a real cut above the rest. Keep reading to learn more about growing Paul Robeson tomatoes and Paul Robeson tomato care in your garden.

Paul Robeson History

What are Paul Robeson tomatoes? First, we need to explore a more important question: who was Paul Robeson? Born in 1898, Robeson was a spectacular Renaissance man. He was a lawyer, athlete, actor, singer, orator, and polyglot. He was also African American, and frustrated with the racism that perpetually held him back. He was drawn to Communism for its claims of equality and became very popular in the USSR. Unfortunately, this was during the height of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, and Robeson was blacklisted by Hollywood and harassed by the FBI for being a Soviet sympathizer. He died in poverty and obscurity in 1976. Having a tomato named after you is hardly a fair trade for a life of promise lost to injustice, but it’s something.

Paul Robeson Tomato Care

Growing Paul Robeson tomatoes is relatively easy and very rewarding. Paul Robeson tomato plants are indeterminate, which means they are long and vining rather than compact and bushy like many more popular tomato plants. They need to be staked or tied to a trellis. They like full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. The fruits are dark red in color and have a very distinct, almost smoky flavor to them. They are juicy but firm flattened globes that tend to reach 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.) in diameter and 7 to 10 ounces (198.5-283.5 g.) in weight. This makes them ideal as slicing tomatoes, but they are also excellent eaten straight off the vine. Gardeners who grow these tomatoes swear by them, often proclaiming them to be the best tomatoes they’ve ever had.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.