We The Italians | Italian flavors: San Marzano Tomato

Italian flavors: San Marzano Tomato

Italian flavors: San Marzano Tomato

  • WTI Magazine #146 Dec 18, 2021
  • 472

Tomatoes first arrived in the Po Valley in the 16th century, along with other tubers and spices, after a voyage in the holds of the galleons of Hernán Cortés, Conquistador of the Aztec empire. The tomato received a very cool reception from rulers, scientists and clerics, who labelled it as a harmful fruit. Its fortunes revived, however, in the 17th century, thanks to the Este family, who freely distributed the seeds to farmers.

While Europe was in the throes of the French Revolution, the red fruits were already ripening among the greenery of the vegetable gardens in the Parma hills. According to “Il pomodoro: una sapienza antica” (“The tomato: an ancient wisdom”), however, the “pomme d'amour” did not become the San Marzano tomato until 1902, in Fiano, a town between Nocera, San Marzano and Sarno.

They were nurtured and pampered there by peasant families, who grew them in characteristic rows on lines suspended between posts, with the plants supported by steel wires or canes. The red fruits, sheltered from the sun’s rays by the rich foliage, were a delight to gourmets and the fragrance of Sundays for both rich and poor. The warm soils of Vesuvius were a determining factor for the extraordinary biodiversity of the San Marzano tomato.

The Protection Consortium was established following the recognition of the Protected Designation of Origin by the European Union in 1996. The more enlightened industrial canners in the area, together with the growers' cooperatives of the Sarno Valley, are duly crediting with reopening the discussion about the world's most famous tomato. They determined the basic ecotypes for San Marzano tomato production with the help of agricultural researchers from the Capania Regional Department of Agricultural.

The environmental association Legambiente also played an important role, through its efforts for the redevelopment of the Sarno River and the surrounding area and the development proposals adopted by the Agro Nocerino Sarnese Territorial Pact.

The Agro Nocerino Sarnese agro-industrial system and the associations are striving for the redevelopment of the local area, which is rich in heritage and resources, through initiatives including the creation of an agricultural park, the opening of a fragrance garden and gaining recognition for PDO San Marzano tomatoes as an organic product.

The product

The PDO San Marzano tomato is a vegetable obtained from the San Marzano 2 and KIROS varieties. The tomato, when fresh, has a long, cylindrical shape, tending towards pyramidal or parallelepipedal, with a typical red colour, a cuticle that is easy to remove and a small quantity of seeds. It has a typically bittersweet flavour.

The peeled tomatoes obtained from this product are of high quality and have a distinctive flavour, with a firmness which remains unaffected by processing. Cultivation of the tomato plants requires transplanting from early April until the first week of May, and any practices that alter the vegetable’s biological cycle or influence its natural ripening are prohibited. Harvesting is carried out by hand in several stages.

The preparation of the peeled tomatoes involves cleaning, peeling and separation from the skin, with subsequent filleting for peeled and filleted product. Basil may be added to the processed product, which is canned in a preserving liquid.

PDO San Marzano tomatoes are distinguished by their unique flavour and texture, which help them remain intact throughout processing. These characteristics are essentially due to the warm soils of Mount Vesuvius and the environmental conditions favoured by the mild climate of the production area.

The local area

PDO San Marzano tomatoes must be grown on farms and processed by companies within the following areas: in the province of Salerno, anywhere in the municipalities of San Marzano, Scafati, San Valentino Torio and part of the municipalities of Baronissi, Fisciano, Mercato San Severino, Siano, Castel San Giorgio, Roccapiemonte, Nocera Superiore, Nocera Inferiore, Sarno, Pagani, Sant'Egidio Monte Albino and Angri; in the province of Avellino, part of the municipalities of Montoro Superiore and Montoro Inferiore; in the province of Naples, anywhere in the municipalities of Boscoreale, Poggiomarino, Pompei, Sant'Antonio Abate, Santa Maria La Carità and Striano and part of the municipalities of Gragnano, Castellammare and the areas bounded by other municipalities.

By Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro S.Marzano dell' Agro Sarnese Nocerino with MiPAAF