From sauces to salads, Italy is famous for incredible tomato-based dishes, and it's not just the preparation that sets these dishes apart. Italian tomatoes have a notoriously good flavor. What gives them this flavor, and how can you get it in your own dishes?
This isn't a guide for growing tomatoes, although we highly recommend getting a few tomato plants to nurture! However, we will attempt to answer where Italian tomatoes get their flavor, and perhaps that information may help you grow tastier tomatoes.
The tasty tomato starts with variety: Depending on what you plan to make, you'll choose a specific tomato variety. Want to make an authentic Italian tomato sauce? The San Marzano tomato is a good choice. Sadly, just picking up some San Marzano tomatoes fresh from the grocery store may not yield the results you're looking for, and this is because of the prevalence of unripe distribution in North America.
Because tomatoes are known as a climacteric fruit that can ripen even once separated from the plant, they are often picked before maturation to facilitate more accessible transportation and longer shelf life. However, what is gained in expedience is undoubtedly lost in flavor! A tomato that is ripened off the vine will never reach the sweetness and flavor inherent in vine-ripened fruit. This is common knowledge in Italy; therefore, tomatoes' full flavor is always present.
You can get around this primarily by purchasing fresh tomatoes only from farmers' markets or growing them yourself during their growing season. That way, your tomatoes will have been ripened on the plant instead of plucked early and shipped to you. The other way to get around that is to keep the fresh tomato salads for the summer months and opt for Italian pasta sauce using the best canned San Marzano tomatoes for the rest of the year. This is because these Italian canned tomatoes are picked and preserved at the peak of their ripeness to enhance their perfect flavor. This is, after all, how Italians maintain their surplus harvest and enjoy tomatoes year-round!
Something must be said about Italy's specific soil composition and climate, which is ideal for producing highly flavorful tomatoes. With long, hot summers, plenty of sunshine, and mineral-rich soil, Italy has some of the best growing conditions for tomatoes.
Want to try more Italian tomatoes? One of our favorites for all kinds of recipes is the velvety Datterino. We're in love with the umami tomato and are proud to import the best Italy has to offer!