- 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.
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
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.
Marzano 3 - This one comes from only 2 US companies that
we could find: Italian Seed & Tool and Gourmetseed.com. 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.
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 seedsofitaly.com. In the US, their website company and name
is growitalian.com. 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
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.
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
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."
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 thompsonmorgan.ca/ and TMseeds.com) - 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
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. (neseeds.com), gourmetseed.com,
Solanas Seeds of Quebec (solanaseeds.netfirms.com/), Italian Seed
& Tool (Italianseedandtool.com), and growitalian.com, 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.
Neseeds.com 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."
Growitalian.com 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 davesgarden.com:
"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.
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
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
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 tomatofest.com writes: This is Gary Ibsens
preferred Italian paste tomato. A much larger tomato (8 oz., 4-inch)
with much better taste than its 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 growitalian.com (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.
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
San Marzano - Cultivar that was thought to have disappeared.
However, tatianastomatobase.com website (a great site), reports
a description with photograph
that Tomato Breeder Keith Mueller has grown them. He has an excellent
website at: kdcomm.net/~tomato/
-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.
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
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.
Please don't copy
my article without a link/credit. Thanks.