King Umberto Tomato Seeds - (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
- Seed Count:
- Approx 25 seeds per pack
- Days to Maturity:
- 89 days
- Days to Germination:
- 5-7 days @ 75-95F
- Light Preference:
- Full sun
- Plant Spacing:
- Heirloom, Non-Hybrid, Non-GMO seeds
King Umberto Tomato - The Royal Ancestor to San Marzano
King Umberto is an ancient Italian tomato variety, gaining its name as a tribute to the first visit of Umberto I di Savoia, the King of Italy, to Naples in 1878. To honor the occasion, the local populace decided to name the best variety of tomato for him. It was grown and continuously selected for a better, tastier and slightly larger tomato for over a century around the Naples region, and is the acknowledged ancestor of the world-famous San Marzano tomato. One of the oldest named tomato varieties.
Because of this, It is considered a landrace variety and is still grown and treasured in the southern Italian region of Amalfi, especially in Tramonti. Every summer gardeners harvest them at the peak of ripeness, early in the morning, and store them in glass jars. The term “Fare le bottiglie” is still used today and literally means “To do the bottles”.
Other names include Fiascone, Fiascone de Napoli, Re Umberto, King Humbert, and Wonder of Italy.
King Umberto is a small 2 oz. pear or bottle-shaped tomato that is very firm with thick walls and dry flesh. The fruit has a slightly acidic, yet sweet balance of flavors. Vines are vigorous and respond well to support, but does not require it, though harvesting fruit is easier on a trellis.
Tomatoes were grown as a crop in Mexico and Peru in pre-Columbian times, but the early history of domestication is not well known (most likely in Mexico). In Europe, tomatoes were grown as ornamentals (thought to be poisonous) and became popular as a food only in the 18th century.
Umberto is ideal as a storage tomato, it also excels as a sauce, puree, oven roasting, canning, and preserving tomato thanks to its shape, moderate size, and extra-firm, dry flesh. Originally, chefs used them as toppings for Pizza Margherita, before the arrival of San Marzano. As far back as 1891, the famed French Seedhouse Vilmorin described Naples gardeners pulling the entire plants in fall, still covered with immature fruit, and hanging them out of the weather in sheds or indoors to slowly ripen. The tomatoes often lasted until the following spring, keeping cooks well supplied with an essential ingredient.
Even today in Italy it is considered a rare variety but is a must-have for home gardeners because of its intense flavor and very generous production from vigorous vines.
Umberto is very adaptable, growing in a wide geographical range of differing climates. Often grown without support in Italy, producing large harvests in poor soils and marginal areas. Production often outlasts the season, so just before your first frost, pull up the vines and hang them upside down in a protected area out of the weather and cold to allow the remaining fruit to ripen.
Tomatoes take about 3 - 4 months from direct seeding in the garden to start producing fruit; about 70 days from transplanting 6 - 8 week-old plants to start fruiting; and about 40-50 days from the flower opening to producing ripe fruit.
Tomatoes suffer more transplant shock than other vegetables, but you can minimize this by hardening them off for a week or two first. This means setting them outdoors in their pots in a protected place so that they get some warm sun, a little gentle wind, and even some cool (not freezing) nights. This will help them adjust to some of the stresses of real life before having their roots transplanted into the ground.
Tomatoes begin the ripening process by producing ethylene, a natural growth regulator, and releasing it. The fruit ripens from the inside out, meaning the center matures and turns red before the color reaches the outer skin. Faint white lines crossing each other at the bottom or blossom end of the fruit show that ripening has begun. Soon afterward, the blossom end starts turning pink – indicating ethylene is being produced. When the pink blush reaches the stem, the fruit is about 75% ripe. The pink color deepens to red, starting from the blossom end and working its way upward.
A tomato’s flavor increases as it ripens, due to the increased nutrients and sugars pumped into the fruit by the plant. For a home gardener, harvesting when there is just a touch of pink at the stem end or when the fruit is completely red gives the best flavor. The fruit will be fragile, won’t tolerate shipping and must be used or cooked within a few days to enjoy peak flavor.
Once the tomato is ripe, test by giving it a gentle pull or twist. If it slips easily from the vine – with little to no effort – it is ripe, juicy, and delicious!
Ripe tomatoes can be injured by cool temperatures and must be stored at room temperatures, never refrigerated to avoid chilling injury, which leaves pockmarks or pits on the skin leading to early rotting.
If you need to harvest early due to weather or the end of the season, those fruits with a pink blush at the blossom end will ripen with almost full flavor. Those with the faint white lines can still ripen but won’t have the full flavor.
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