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2010 Season
Growing Journal

2011 Season (Same SM1s as Last Year, Nothing to Report).

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Varieties (cultivars) of San Marzano Tomatoes


Back Story: Whether or not the following cultivars of San Marzano tomatoes are "true" San Marzano tomatoes is not clear. When the San Marzano was rescued in the 1990s, only 2 out 27 locally grown cultivars were established as the recovered "reference point" for true San Marzano tomatoes - a step that was quite necessary to receive National (and eventual European Union) recognition as DOP in 1996. The two varieties that came out of that selection process were: Cirio Selection 3, and the SMEC 20 which was apparently renamed the San Marzano 2.

The list below was gathered from about 20 different sources, in several languages, most of them seed sellers. How the cultivars on the list relate genetically to the 2 reference points named above, or the 27 first tested from the region, is not clear. There is probably a big difference between your father to your brother to your first cousin to your third cousin once removed to your third cousin's roommate in college who travelled to Italy once and may have accidentally got some San Marzano DNA on him after a wild night in an Italian disco.

These degrees of seperation may be important to some food connosieurs, and tomato growers who this list was primarily assembled to benefit. When possible, we have tried to track some of these cultivars back to their "original source." Spoiler alert: some of them - not so Italian.

We discuss genetic lines of San Marzano purity because it is an important necessity to growers in the Campania region where agricultural scientists have relied on DNA fingerprinting lately to insure the variety remains true.(29) Such is the importance of having the right cultivars for DOP recognition. Call it, CSI Naples.

It should also be noted that San Marzano tomato "purists" declare that any tomato grown and derived from a San Marzano tomato seed in an area that does not make up the DOP region (41 municipalities and approx. 39,000 acres) is not "a true San Marzano tomato."










- Well, okay then. What is it? What's it called if it's not a San Marzano? - Apparently, nobody has come up with a good name for a San Marzano tomato that is grown in California, Spain, Mexico, Japan or Oklahoma, like mine are about to be. The closest anyone has come is: San Marzano Type or San Marzano Style or San Marzano Derivative.

Derivative. Sexy.

But here's a fact that tomato growers know, and gourmet's don't: Any tomato grown in your own garden, by your own hand, taste's better than any store bought tomato - even fancy shmancy sexy DOP certified pomodoros.

My growing journal this year (2010) will feature San Marzano (heirloom), San Marzano 2, and Pink San Marzano tomatoes.

General Description of San Marzano Tomatoes:

The general description of nearly all San Marzano tomatoes would include some of the following adjectives and descriptors: Very few seeds. Even fewer than Roma tomatoes and other paste tomatoes. Mostly indeterminate plants, but a few that are determinate. Deep red color. Dense, meaty, with a high amout of pectin that makes a thick sauce. The flavor is more often described as "bittersweet" which comes out just right in the sauce making process and gives it it's superior flavor (for sauces). However, some SM's are sweeter than they are bitter, and are good enough to eat whole or off the vine. The shape is always long, oblong or cylindrical, and often described as "squarish," "blocky" or in one known case, as a "quadrangle." This is due in part to the slight lobes some San Marzano's have. These lobes, like a sweet pepper but much more subtle, give SM's their "quadrangle" shape. However, some are described as more pear shape and nearly all cultivars have a "nipple" featured on the bottom of the tomato.

List of Commonly Sold San Marzano Tomato Seeds:

San Marzano (Heirloom) - Many different seed companies seem to be selling what can only be described as a "generic San Marzano" that is either described as Open Pollinated or Organic or an Heirloom - and all 3 mean the same thing. Seed companies differ slightly in their descriptions, and it's difficult to tell if they are talking about the same strain of SMs. However, let's look toward Vent Marin's fantastic website (in French), Tomato Passion, to get a description that comes from German and Italian seed catalogs from the 1920s and 30s. "Red fruit with green shoulders, oval to cylindrical elongated from 90 to 120 grams and 6 to 12 cm long...Very fleshy fruits. 3 boxes (he means loculi). 75 to 80 days. Indeterminate growth. Variety set well suited for drying."

San Marzano 168 F1 Hybrid - This cultivar came up in our research and appears to be an American born hybrid for sale by only one company, johhnyseeds. However, a recent notation on their SM 168 web page notes they had a "seed crop failure," and they began pushing another hybrid they apparently developed called the San Marzano 15. Description: Tall vines that produce 5 to 6 ounce fruit a week earlier than other San Marzano's, 78 to be exact. "Delicious, balanced acidic flavor, and meaty flesh makes for good sauce." Resistant to fusarium (races 1 and 2) and verticillium wilt. Indeterminate.

San Marzano 15 F1 Hybrid - Although out of alphabetical order, I had to put this one after the one above. When the seed crop for the San Marzano 168 failed, apparently, the seed company promoted this cultivar instead. They write: "New! Our suggested replacement for San Marzano 168.- San Marzano 15 is an early yielder of large paste tomatoes that are slightly more pear-shaped and shorter than San Marzano 168. The 4-oz. fruits are tasty and make good sauce. Resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium races 1 and 2, and nematodes. Indeterminate. 78 days." - Like the 168, the 15 is an American born hybrid.

San Marzano 2 The San Marzano II or 2 seeds being sold today may or may not be a direct relation to the San Marzano 2 rescued by Dr. Patrizia Spigno in the 1990s. For one thing, those SM 2s she rescued were described as being between 42 and 55 grams, 1.4 to 1.94 ounces. By seed seller standards in 2010, that's rather small for a San Marzano. Those same sellers of San Marzano 2s currently describe their SM 2's as being between 3 to 4 ounces (80 to 110 grams) - or - 5 to 7 ounces, depending on which company you are buying them from. All are described as dense to meaty flesh, deep red color, oblong, indeterminate and taking 80-85 days to offer ripe fruit. Disease tolerant and resistant to Verticulum and Fusarium. The 2s being sold to gardners today MIGHT be of the Dr. Spigno's 1995 strain as the agronomists in that region sought to improve the reference varieties in the last 15 years. But the degree of relation to those is not clear to me from the research.

My San Marzano 2 seeds from Poland are described as 8 to 10 cm long fruit, with a 4cm diameter in the 90 to 110 gram range. In American English, that means 3.2 to 3.9 ounces, 3.1 to 3.9 inches long, with a 1.6 inch diameter.

San Marzano 3 - This one comes from only 2 US companies that we could find: Italian Seed & Tool and Keeping in mind that every tomato a seed sellers describes is - the greatest tomato in the world. A true miracle of tomatoes - here's what italianseedandtool had to say about the San Marzano 3: "A highly prized Italian heirloom tomato for its fruit with firm pulp and thick skin, used in the concentrate industry as well as for canning 'peeled' tomatoes. This is truly the Italian standard for sauce and paste and a heavy producer. The fruit are long, often mistaken for large peppers from a distance. Fleshy with few seeds, often with 'dry' seed cavities, and with an authentic flavor that will take you back to Italy. A vigorous grower (we couldn't believe the size of the harvests even in zone 5), indeterminate. 80 days. Indeterminate, square elongated shape."

The only other seed seller we could find, gourmetseed, writes: This is the classic indeterminate vining type for full season picking and larger fruit. For rich, flavorful, authentic paste and sauce, this is the Italian standard. Good market strain due to improved size and strong season-long production direct from Italy." Instead of 80 days, gourmetseeds has this SM 3 producing ripe fruit at 90 days.

San Marzano Follia F1 Hybrid - Okay, this one's not available in the United States as near as we can tell. However, San Marzano growers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe have access to this cultivar, mostly via Franchi Seed Co. through a company called In the US, their website company and name is However, that website doesn't seem to offer the Follia to Americans. About the only description ever written for this SM is: "A bell shaped San Marzano variety for eating fresh. Resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium. Thick flesh and real Italian flavour. Reliable, productive, resistant - an excellent tomato for growers." - Nobody writes anything about weight or days.

San Marzano Gigante - San Marzano Gigante seeds are available (only) to listed members of Seed Savers Exchange - an organization worth joining if you are a serious gardener. No description given.

Territorialseed is offering the San Marzano Gigante 3 and they write: "90 days. A heftier version of any San Marzano tomato that we have trialed with a magnificent, robust flavor to boot. Large, open, indeterminate plants produce enormous, meaty fruit measuring 2 1/2 inches wide and 7 inches long. Ruby red tomatoes have green streaked shoulders and very few seeds. These giants will go a long way in sauce and salsa recipes." Another "giant" San Marzano to look into is the Scatalone, listed below.

San Marzano Lampadina - This variety (cultivar actually) is fairly rare, not popular and only offered through two small seed companies. One of them, Solana Seeds of Quebec, Canada, writes: "Italian paste tomato with a distinctive elongated pear shape. Tall and vigorous plants. Was selected from the commercial San Marzano. Fleshy fruits with hollow seed cavity. Good for transformation: sauce, canning, etc. Can also be eaten fresh. 82 days."

VentMarin's Tomato Passion website (France) describes the Lampadina as weighing 50 to 90 grams (1.4 to 3.2 ounces).

There's a huge discrepancy in the reporting on this SM. More than one grower reports the Lampadina has poor disease protection. However, an American based seed seller, Abundant Acres, reports: 82 days - Indeterminate. A milder San Marzano-type, tasty Roma-shaped fruits have a very low water content. Hollow seed cavities inside thick-walled, pepper-like fruit. Has more disease resistance than regular San Marzano. Very productive paste-type.

This cultivar is available on Italian websites and Italian eBay, so I believe it is an authentic San Marzano. As to who to believe on the disease resistance, I lean more towards growers reporting what they experienced, but encourage any and all to buy and try for themselves. Experimentation in tomato gardening is useful and fun.

San Marzano Large Fruited Strain OP - Variety no longer thought to be available. Developed by an Italian professor in Argentina. This one made a brief known appearance in Gleckler's 1958 seed catalog which wrote: "A selected strain of Italian paste tomato obtained from Prof. Abelardo Piovano, vegetable crops specialist and agronomist at the National University of Argentina. A very large-fruited strain obtained after many selections by Prof. Piovano in his extensive work in tomatoes. Mid-season in maturity. Vine growth vigorous, bushy with dense foliage and of excellent plant health. A very healthy yielder of beautiful seep scarlet, long plum-shaped fruits, having a most tempting, frosty, meaty and mild flavor. Having very little juice, excellent for tomato paste or combining with a juice variety for home canning. A most beautiful and tasty salad can be prepared by slicing lengthwise and stuffing with bits of cabbage and pepers cut up, garnished with mayonnaise."

San Marzano Lungo F1 Hybrid - This tomato is sold mainly by Thompson and Morgan Seed, an English seed company (that dates back to 1855) with websites/offices in Canada and the United States. (see and - What Thompson and Morgan doesn't say anywhere online is that this is an F1 Hybrid. However, on the seed package, it says: "Tomato Il San Marzano F1 Hybrid" and "Authentic Italian Seed." Other Lungo sellers appear to be affiliates of T&M. Lungo, in Italian, means Long.

Even though it's a hybrid, the T&M website and seed package says it includes 300 seeds, with a price that is comparable to many North American companies selling seed pkgs of 20 to 30 seeds. Three hundred seeds is a lot of opportunity to grow this tomato as much as you want, for years to come, hybrid or not.

One gardener/reviewer who wrote into the Official Blog of T&M seeds did have nice things to say about the Lungo. She wrote: "This tomato was both prolific and crack resistant. After a couple light rains there was not a sign of a split tomato. We have made many jars of tomato sauce, tomato soup, and spaghetti sauce."

T&M's rather short description of the Lungo is: "The Number 1 cooking variety and unsurpassed for sauces; dry and meaty, larger plum fruits of deep red skin color. Early to ripen and crops well over a long season."

Fortunately, one of our favorite websites, VentMarin Tomato Passion, (in French) offers a more detailed description: "Fruit red cylindrical elongated from 90 to 120 grams and 6 to 12 cm long...Very low depression peduncle. Navel point marked by a few millimeters corky. Very fleshy fruits. 75 to 80 days. Indeterminate growth." - Google Translated. I had to look up "peduncle" and I am still not 100 percent sure what VentMarin means in this case.

San Marzano Nano - Nano in Italian means dwarf. In my research, I've run across SM cultivars described as San Marzano Bush and I believe they are in fact talking about the Nano, or using bush and nano interchangeably. The descriptions on these vary a little bit, but common characteristic is it's a shorter plant, and is determinate, which is useful for small commercial farming, larger gardens, large organic gardens, or regular size tomato farms.

The Nano, or SM Bush, is available from five different seed sellers which include: New England Seed Co. (,, Solanas Seeds of Quebec (, Italian Seed & Tool (, and, the US website/distributor for Italian seed company, Franchi Seeds. Franchi sells a slighty different version, one of their own creations, a hybrid called the Astro F1, a short, 3 foot tall determinate, that produces 4 ounce fruits. writes: "The fruits are cylindrical, weigh 70 g approx., have a wonderful color and are uniform. They are in demand from both the industry and the fresh market." While Solanas reports: "Determinate. Pear shape italian variety with thick flesh and hollow seed cavity. Commercial type well adapted for transformation, especially peeled tomatoes. Vigorous, compact plants 70-80 days." sells it as San Marzano Bush and describes it as: "Especially favored by those looking to can all their tomatoes at once or for market growers looking for a short easy picking period. Has all the taste the San Marzano's are known for."

An unobjective report comes from a gardener who reports on "This 2' plant is loaded with wonderful sauce/paste type fruit. It ripens to a gorgeous solid red and has so few seeds that it takes several to get enough for seed saving. I think I'll always grow this one." - Davesgarden also reports the San Marzano Nano has successfully been grown in Moss Point, Mississippi (ever been? It's a hot, humid place near the Gulf of Mexico), and Cleveland, Ohio, which has a colder, shorter growing season. From 9 (hot) to 6 (cold). That's pretty verstatile.

San Marzano Redorta - The Redorta seems to be one of the more popular cultivars of San Marzano tomatoes and is available through many different online seed companies. Now, there is a lot of confusion in the description of this variety in many English language seed catalogs that report that this cultivar is named for a mountain near the city of Bergamo in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Let's Clarify the Geography and Genesis of this Cultivar:

Now, there is a mountain, called Pizzo Redorta but Bergamo is a city, and a province, and is in the region of Lombardy. (Region is larger than province. Think of states and counties). The Lombardy region is way, way, way north, near the Italian Alps. The more romantic, sexy and familiar sounding (to Americans) "Tuscany" region is further south, but still north of the Campania region - where true San Marzano's are grown and certified DOP. The Tuscany region has Florence as the capitol and Campania has Naples as the capitol.

The San Marzano Redorta apparently does come from the Tuscany region, but was named for a mountain in a region far, far away. This is confusing since many European tomatoes are often named for the city and/or county and/or region they were first grown in.

So, if it comes from Tuscany, and not Campania, how can this be a San Marzano? Well, technically, that might be true but let's give a tomato a chance in this crazy, mixed up world.

The Redorta - does have a good reputation. Testimonials: 1). Gary Ibsen of writes: This is Gary Ibsen’s preferred Italian paste tomato. A much larger tomato (8 oz., 4-inch) with much better taste than it’s cousin, San Marzano. Good enough to eat off the vine with the bonus of ending up with more tomato paste per plant. 2). Someone at (the US version of seedsofitaly wrote of the Redorta: "I always have some of these growing in the garden....This is also an really good tasting fresh eating tomato; it is as good as any beefsteak type you will ever eat."

Description: The Redorta is larger than many other SM's. One seller describes it as 8 ounces, another ambitiously describes it as 10 to 12 ounces. (227 grams to 340 grams). Large vigorous plant, 78 to 80 days, indeterminate.

San Marzano Scatalone - Like the Gigante and Redorta, the Scatalone is one of the larger cultivars of SMs, but small enough to keep a good flavor. Good for canning/processing or sauces. Not commonly grown or available in the US, but is sold by 2 known companies: growitalian and gourmetseed. Growitalian, the US distributor of Italian based Franchi seeds, writes: "San Marzano type on steroids. Larger than regular San Marzano 2. Pear shape. Good taste & heavy producer." - Steroids? Whatever that means. I guess it's good.

Gourmetseed writes: "Huge, refined strain of San Marzano tomato with a lot of pulp and flavor, and very vigorous growth. A terrific find for those looking for one of the best 'San Marzano's available, and is actually quite rare to the US. Characteristic of many Italian tomatoes, this ripens from the inside out."

Nobody reports on the estimated days to ripening, but it's a late season tomato.

Pink San Marzano - Cultivar that was thought to have disappeared. However, website (a great site), reports a description with photograph that Tomato Breeder Keith Mueller has grown them. He has an excellent website at: -I emailed him to purchase some seeds but he never responded. Oh well. Update: March 10th. Heard from Keith Mueller who found this website via a tomato messageboard and he is gracious enough to send me a few of the Pink San Marzano tomato seeds he has left. He has stated elsewhere that he received Pink San Marzano seeds from USDA in the 1990s who is the only known main repositor of pink San Marzano seeds.

Tatiana'sTomatoBase carries the following description: Probably indeterminate (?). Plants have never grown above 5ft. Regular leafed plants. Plants set well and produce in flushes. Probably about (75-85 days). Around 3-4 oz fruits (100-120g). Fruit has a slightly sweet quality to it. Not dry or mealy like some paste types. Nice richness in flavor too. A good paste also for fresh use rather than just cooking. One of my favorite pastes for flavor and presentation. Plants can succumb quickly to disease with heavy fruit loads.

Super San Marzano and Super Marzano Hybrid. - It's a bit confusing, but the Super San Marzano appears to be different from the Super Marzano. Maybe. Gary Ibsen reports the Super San Marzano is dehybridized. He also says it's a productive 1 inch by 5 inch long, indeterminate mid-season tomato.

Other seed sellers describe the Super Marzano as a hybrid that is very disease resistant, VFNT, tall indeterminate plants, mid-season. It's unclear without talking to an expert that better knows the difference between the two.

Keep in mind that every tomato the seed companies sell is: the greatest tomato of all time and deserving of the Nobel Peace Price. - Such is the hyperbole that surrounds their description.


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