San Marzano, a town near Naples, is famous for its plum tomatoes. This variety is a superb cordon-type tomato from Bolsena in Lazio (near Rome) with an excellent flavour and good size which stores well. Italians really made the tomato their own after they were introduced into Europe by Christopher Columbus. These tomatoes are great for slicing and are also reputedly one of the best cooking tomatoes in the world. Use them for stuffing, or to make passata for pizzas and pasta. Harvest the last tomatoes just before they ripen and slice and fry or ripen them indoors.
Annual. Sow from February to May in pots of seed compost in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. Plant out into pots of potting compost when large enough to handle. Transfer into larger pots of rich compost, grow bags or direct in well-fertilized soil outside or under glass allowing 30cm between plants. Stake and begin feeding when two trusses (flowering branches) have appeared and pinch out side-shoots.
Growing habit: Indeterminate (cordon)
Approximate seeds quantity: @300
Sow: from February to May
Getting into a field of ripe San Marzano tomatoes is a unique experience: you are stunned by the fragrances of freshly cut grass and spices emanated by this tomato also when it is still green and persistent even in the canned product. All aromas reminding of the past, when salads tasted of tomato and sun and did not look like alien imperishable, odourless and flavourless objects. Up to twenty years ago, the very fertile territory around Naples and the sarnese-nocerino countryside in the province of Salerno, particularly suitable for vegetable growing, was mainly farmed with San Marzano tomatoes, a very delicate variety, with a thin skin, which keeps well also after being preserved, but which needs to be handled with care. However, due to diseases and low competitiveness in terms of cultivation costs, more productive hybrids became widespread, as more resistant to diseases and more suitable for mechanized work, but with poorer quality and organoleptic properties. The canning companies producing peeled tomatoes started purchasing these hybrids, thus endangering indigenous San Marzano.San Marzano tomatoes are grown like vines and are harvested seven, eight times or more from July to September, only when perfectly ripe and after sunset. After picking them up, the tomatoes are rinsed with water and put in the cans, then cooked for 13 minutes. Nothing else is needed: no additives, no preservatives. It will keep well for at least one year. The several small artisan firms, mainly employing women, peel the tomatoes. But the real personality of San Marzano is seen in the plate: the sauce made with these tomatoes literally sticks onto pasta and does not release any acidity.The San Marzano tomato is inextricably linked to Neapolitan pizza (Margherita), and is also an ingredient in traditional Neapolitan ragù (meat sauce).