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San Marzano tomatoes are known and esteemed all over the world thanks to their good quality, which is enhanced when they are processed as peeled tomatoes. A whole series of factors, including the Mediterranean climate, the extremely fertile and well structured soil, the skill of the farmers in the growing area and their many years of experience, have contributed to the product's worldwide success, crowned in 1996 by recognition as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the European Union.
The intrinsic qualities that enhance the product and have made it so well known and appreciated are: its distinctive bittersweet taste, the elongated shape of the fruit with its parallel longitudinal grooves, bright red colour, few seeds and not much placenta fibre and its bright red, easy-to-peel skin. These qualities, combined with its chemical-physical characteristics, make this tomato absolutely distinctive, whether fresh or processed.
The protected designation of origin applies solely to the "peeled" product (the EU is examining a proposal by the protection Consortium to include the "peeled strips " type in the category, in addition to the "whole peeled " product), Produced by processing fruits belonging to the San Marzano ecotype and to improved lines of it. the product marketed must possess very specific technological characteristics: an even red colour with an a/b colorimetric ratio of not less than 2,2; elongated parallelepiped shape, 60 to 80 millimetres long; no foreign flavour or smell; drained weight not less than 65% of the net weight; refractometric residue not less than 4%; pH between 4.2 and 4.5. The addition of salt (max 3% of net weight.), basil leaves and semi-concentrated tomato juice (San Marzano tomatoes only) is permitted.
The method of cultivating the fresh product involves growing the plants vertically with supports, the way it has been done for centuries, although this technique has a marked effect on production costs due to the great number of man-hours required.
As we know, the tomato, comes from Central America. It was introduced into Europe during the seventeenth century, initially only in Spain where it was simply treated as an ornamental plant. The food value of this crop was only discovered later, some say not until the eighteenth century, when it spread to several Mediterranean countries.
The story goes that the first tomato seed arrived in Italy around the year 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples and that it was planted in the area that is, today, the municipality of San Marzano. So that is believed to be the origin of this famous tomato, which, through various selections over the years, eventually acquired the characteristics of the present ecotype. However, there are other versions according to which it was only in 1902 that there was certain proof of the existence of this famous ecotype in Nocera, San Marzano and Sarno.
The delight of gourmets and the highlight of Sundays and special occasions, when the white of the pasta of Gragnano and Torre Annunziata was swathed with red sauce, the San Marzano tomato took on great importance from the gastronomic point of view around the turn of the twentieth century, when the first preservation industry was started by Francesco Cirio, producing the famous "peeled" tomato for making sauce.
In the more recent past the San Marzano tomato has also been called "red gold" because of the economic value it had taken on for farmers in the Sarnese-Nocerino area.
During the Eighties the growing was drastically reduced, in terms of both area and crop, due to phytosanitary problems as well as for economic reasons (particularly related to the costly farming method), but the action, started by the Campania Region and carried on by the protection Consortium, for recovery, preservation of genetic lines and improvement of the crop made it possible to protect it and relaunch it on the international market.
In fact, San Marzano tomatoes PDO are going through a new phase of revival and are now in demand not only in Europe and America, but also in other continents, where their popularity is expanding, thanks also to the growing success of the "Mediterranean diet".
DANIcoop Società Cooperativa Agricola
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