We showcase two area in Italy growing distinctive varieties: Naples and Sicily. Find out why these areas are so rich in tomatoes!
Mount Vesuvius, near Naples, is considered one of the best places to grow tomatoes. The soil is rich after two large volcanic eruptions blanketed the area with thick deposits of tephra, which has a high concentration of sulphur and minerals – perfect for growing sweet, juicy tomatoes.
Deep red San Marzano plum tomatoes are sweet and full of flavour. Grown in the Sarno valley near the base of Mount Vesuvius, the rich, volcanic soil gives them a distinct depth of taste. Loved by Italians, they have been awarded PDO (protected designation of origin) status. They are particularly good for passata and sauces as they have around 50% less seeds than other plum tomatoes. Chefs consider San Marzano tomatoes the only variety that can be used to make an authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Piennolo del Vesuviano
Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio are another variety grown near Mount Vesuvius in the Campania region. A sweet, oval-shaped tomato, they are hung in bunches to dry (piennolo means hanging) for around a month to intensify their flavour before being canned or made into a traditional preserve. Their intense flavour makes them ideal for pasta sauces.
Millions of years ago, Sicily was covered by the sea, which has left the salty earth rich with mineral deposits. This bountiful soil, combined with an abundance of sunshine, makes perfect growing conditions for tomatoes.
Since the 1920s, Pachino tomatoes have been grown in the small coastal town with the same name. The Sicilian dish aubergine alla caponata (aubergine stew with tomatoes, capers, celery and olives) is sweet, crunchy and bursting with flavour. They are the star of Sicilian cuisine, used in salads and pasta sauces. There are four varieties of Pachino tomatoes including Ciliegino (cherry tomatoes) and Costoluto (large salad tomatoes). Around 200,000 tons of Pachino tomatoes are grown every year.
Datterini tomatoes, grown in south-east Sicily, are prized for their intensely sweet flavour. They are small, the size of dates – the name Datterini means ‘little dates’ – and grow in clumps. They are delicious eaten on their own, or in salads, sauces or fish dishes.