The San Marzano tomato: I bet most people have heard the name and noticed them on restaurant menus or in grocery stores, but don’t really know much else about them (unless, of course, you have taken the time to learn about them). Well, not to worry, because prior to a few weeks ago, I didn’t know a whole lot about San Marzano tomatoes myself!
I was lucky enough to embark on an epic adventure to Italy and to the actual town called San Marzano, just to learn all about these tomatoes and what makes them truly special. And let me tell you, there is a whole lot of love and care that goes into cultivating these delicacies that has been perfected over generations. The San Marzano tomato really is one of the best tomatoes you will ever have.
San Marzano tomatoes come from the region right outside of Naples, Italy surrounding the famous Mt. Vesuvius (you know, the one that erupted in 79 A.D. that destroyed and yet preserved the city of Pompeii). Due to the rich soil around the volcano and perfect climate conditions, the tomatoes thrive in this particular geographic area and are harvested each year from July through October.
We had the opportunity to go into the tomato fields themselves as well as several canning facilities to learn about the entire process from field cultivation to seeing the final slats of packed cans being ready to ship around the globe. Here are some notable highlights I took away from the experience.
The tomatoes are hand-picked from the vines. In today’s modern world of automation, this crucial step of picking each tomato by hand allows the tomatoes to remain in the best possible wholesome state. It also comes with much less probability of being damaged during the process than if picked by machines. It’s truly a white glove service getting the tomatoes from the fields.
Each batch of tomatoes is labeled, sent to a distribution center and sent to a canning facility within hours of being picked. Basically, the tomatoes go from the vine and are in a can in a very short amount of time! You know this system has been perfected over time and is what also lends the tomatoes to remain the freshest and the best final product.
There are no additives or chemicals added to the tomato cans. The peeled tomatoes, some of their sauce, salt and a bit of citric acid are all that you will find in the canned version of the San Marzano tomatoes. The cans of tomatoes are truly just that and nothing else (sometimes basil may be added, but not always).
The tomatoes really are special! They tend to have fewer seeds, taste slightly sweeter and less acidic as compared to traditional plum style tomatoes. Also, the skin on the San Marzano tomato is very thin and comes off much easier as compared to other tomatoes.
Beware, there are imposter San Marzano tomatoes out there. I was shocked when I found this out! The key to purchasing legit San Marzano tomatoes is to look for two particular symbols: the DOP (the product designation in Italy) seal as well as the San Marzano seal with serial number. When you see these two symbols on the can, you know you are purchasing authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.
I hope you found some of these facts both interesting and educational. I know I did! I had the honor to learn first hand from the most passionate and wonderful people who dedicate their lives to San Marzano tomatoes in Italy. And for that, I’m so incredibly grateful.
Stay tuned for my next post with probably THE most important aspect of the San Marzano tomato; the many ways to eat and enjoy them!
Please Note: While this post is in collaboration with Associazione Nazionale Industriali Conserve Alimentari Vegetali (Anicav), all opinions are my own.