The tomato, originally from Central America, arrived in Europe during the 16th century. At the time, the plant had primarily an ornamental value. It slowly spread across Europe thanks to the Bourbon Courts that were close with the Spanish royal family. According to a couple of sources, tomatoes were not considered food until the 18th century. Tomatoes arrived in the Kingdom of Naples around 1770 and the plant thrived in the fertile soil of near San Marzano. The tomato we know today is the result of a series of selection processes. Tomatoes only really began to be considered an important ingredient at the beginning of the 20th century with the development of the pasta industry in nearby Gragnano and Torre Annunziata and the birth of the first companies dedicated to conserving food were founded in Piedmont by Francesco Cirio.
POMODORO SAN MARZANO DOP
The area of production of San Marzano tomatoes is located in the Campania region and more specifically in communes in the provinces of Naples, Salerno and Avellino. Tomatoes can only be grown in areas with good irrigation. Hilly areas are not suitable either. The soil in these areas contains volcanic material and organic elements like phosphorous and potassium. There is a good amount of ground water and the climate is moderated by the sea breezes, and there are never extreme weather conditions. It is humid and rainy for at least three seasons out of the year, and in the summer the humidity remains high even despite the rain.
The San Marzano tomato variety is grown primarily in this area and the tomatoes are often known as “pelato”, or peeled, thanks to the tomato canning industry started by Cirio.
The cultivation guidelines require that the tomatoes be grown vertically in rows. Pruning and clipping is allowed bur forcing is not. The tomatoes are picked by hand over the course of a couple of days once they are ripe.
This variety is known for its long shape, red color, thin and easily peelable skin, solid pulp, few seed and bittersweet flavor. San Marzano is considered the king of tomatoes according to many of its distinctive characteristics. The tomatoes are ideal for industrial processing because they do not break or suffer damage during processing. They are the best type of tomato for preserving in jars or boxes to be used in sauces and on pizza. They can also be used in all of the usual ways; raw, in dishes like bruschetta, in pastas and salads.
In the library
G. ROVESTI, L'industria delle conserve di pomodoro, Casale Monferrato, Ottavi, 1922.
M.C. SALEMI, Il pomodoro: storia e virtù gastronomiche della grande bacca rossa, risorsa economica e regina dei sapori, Firenze, Nardini, .
E. VALLI, Il pomodoro: storia, coltivazione, ricette, Bologna, Calderini Edagricole, 2001.
C. NOVELLI, Né pomodoro né pasta: da Lo scalco alla moderna 150 piatti napoletani del Seicento, riletti commentati e assaggiati da Claudio Novelli, Napoli, Grimaldi, 2003;
Atlante Qualivita 2009, Milano, Edizioni del Gusto, 2008.