Southern Italy, particularly the Campania region is synonymous with tomatoes. The Mediterranean climate and rich volcanic soils are ideal growing conditions. Not only are there many varieties to choose from but they all have their proper place, some are to be eaten fresh and in salads, others for cooking into sauces.
The tomato dates back to the Aztecs, approximately 500 AD. After centuries of cross cultivation and new varieties, they made their way to Europe in the 1500’s and were thought to be poisonous and only used for ornamental purposes.
Apparently, the Europeans were suspicious of the shiny fruit. The nobles who ate the tomatoes their from pewter dining ware suffered from lead poisoning. It was the acidity in the tomatoes that caused the lead to leech out. However, the commoners that ate off off wooden plates were not effected. So after that myth has been debunked…there are over 7,500 varieties and people around the world can’t get enough!
I do think the most flavorful tasting varieties are here in the Napoli and Sorrento area. Here are few from the market today.
The Piennolo del Vesuvio, also known as “Pomodorino Vesuviano” are a DOP product, grown at the base of Mt. Vesuvius. These sweet teardrops have a unique shape with a little tip on the end. They are usually clustered together to preserve, hung in a cool, ventilated area and will keep up to a couple months. To be eaten raw in salads or like candy!
The local Campania region tomato. Large, heirloom shape with lots of ridges that are just as delicious partially green and red. Sliced and used in salads, as well as the infamous Insalata di Caprese. The Caprese salad originated on the isle of Capri and is to only be served with olive oil! Recipe from Epicurous
The classic cherry tomato aka Pomodori Pachino, Sicilian cherry tomatoes and also IGP certification. They are tasty in salads but also withstand a little heat and great additions to pizzas and pasta with olive oil, tomato and basil.
Probably the Godfather of all Italian tomatoes, the San Marzano. Undoubtedly, it’s the best plum tomato out there. Growing in the city of San Marzano, near Naples, the sweet fleshy gems have a low acidity level with less seeds than the Roma version. The San Marzano’s are a DOP product and typically used for sauces, ragu or canned.