Tomatoes and pizza

Under EU law Pizza Neapolitana is a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed dish and with that there are certain standards that have to be upheld. Part of that dish is the tomato sauce used on the pizza. These specific tomatoes are the San Marzano variety. These originally grew in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. San Marzano tomatoes are a thinner and more pointed version of the plum tomato. The flesh is thick and has few seeds and the taste is string and less sweet. The legend goes that Pizza Neapolitana was created on 11th June 1889 when Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita” for the Queen consort of Italy. Mergherita de Savoy. The colours of the pizza were supposed to represent the colours of the Italian flag – tomato for red, basil for green and mozzarella for white. The dish became popular and the rest is history as they say.

The San Marzano tomato and its excellent applications for using as a paste and for sauces became a desirable crop. The tomato was first planted in the town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples from seeds gifted to the Kingdom of Naples by the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1770. It started to be planted commercially in 1926 and was perfect for canning. Canned San Marzanos from Valley de Sarno in Italy is protected under EU law and have DOP (protected origin) status. These are among the most desirable tomatoes in the world and there is a major ongoing battle with fraudulent and counterfeited product. In 2010 the Italian carabineri (military and civilian police) confiscated 1470 tons of improperly labelled canned tomatoes, worth €1.2 million. This indicates that fake tomatoes and the protection of them is big business.