Fraudulent San Marzano Tomatoes are real problem here in the US. Chances are, if you’ve bought a can of “Italian San Marzano Tomatoes” from your local grocery store, they’re fake!
“At maximum 5 percent of tomatoes sold in the U.S. as San Marzanos are real San Marzanos”
– Eduardo Ruggiero
Maria Uyehara for Taste Cooking breaks down the issues surrounding San Marzano fraud in her piece “The Fake Rolex of Canned Foods“. Here at Gustiamo we constantly talk about the importance of REAL San Marzano tomatoes, and Maria truly understands our point!
One problem is supply. Real San Marzanos must follow strict DOP (protected designation of origin) guidelines, which say the exact geographic area in which these tomatoes can be grown. Defined as Agro Sarnese-Nocerino, farmers operating in this small area can only produce so many tomatoes! It’s truly impossible that all “San Marzano” tomatoes sold worldwide were grown in Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.
Geography matters because you can’t have real San Marzano flavor without the proper environment. The volcanic soil and Mediterranean climate have a huge impact on the defining sweetness and meatiness of these tomatoes. Even if you try growing the same San Marzano seeds, a different climate means a different flavor.
A second problem is just how famous San Marzano tomatoes are. As “the only recognized name in the canned tomato game”, marketing tomatoes as “San Marzano” turns a huge profit. Since Italian DOP legislation doesn’t apply in the US, there’s nothing to stop US brands from slapping the “San Marzano” name on any old tomatoes.
So how can you avoid all the San Marzano fraud out there? Go with a supplier you can trust ; ) Chefs around the country come to us for their tomatoes because we’ve got the real thing: DOP San Marzano from Gustarosso.
Gustarosso San Marzano tomatoes are 100% grown in the Agro Sarnese Nocerino area. Plus, they’re hand picked by the farmers of Danicoop. If you’re looking for authentic San Marzano tomatoes, Gustarosso is the way to go!
Campania has more to offer than just San Marzano tomatoes. If you want to go beyond San Marzano, give the Piennolo a try. These pointy cherry tomatoes are also grown in volcanic soil but have their own DOP designation. Their flavor is so distinct you don’t want to do much to the Piennolo in terms of cooking. In fact, you can practically eat a Piennolo straight from the jar!
But if you want some really special tomatoes, go for Il Miracolo di San Gennaro. Produced in very limited quantities by just one farmer, these miraculous tomatoes have a flavor like no other. If you’re looking for something resembling the traditional San Marzano pear shaped tomato, give the Il Miracolo plum tomatoes a try. If natural sweetness is what you’re after, the small “pomodorini” tomatoes are what you want.
Grazie Maria for your thorough article! We truly appreciate your commitment to fighting fake San Marzano tomatoes. Besides our taste buds, the Italian farmers producing authentic San Marzano tomatoes are the real victims of San Marzano fraud. Fraud debases the value of the real thing, and large industrial companies exploit these small farmers to turn maximum profit. Again the solution? A supplier you trust.