Italian flavors: Pachino tomatoes

Feb 20, 2021 281

The first tomato cultivated in the district of Pachino (50 km south of Syracuse, in the extreme southern tip of Sicily) date from about 1925 on farms with irrigation from groundwater wells. It was noted, even at that time, that tomatoes cultivated in this area had very different characteristics from other tomatoes.

First of all, they went into production 15-20 days early; they had a bright color, due to a particularly tough skin and their Brix level, which measures the amount of sugar, was always very making them much sweeter and more flavorful than others. The intensification of tomato cultivation, due to a restructuring of the agricultural economy after the local wine-growing crisis of the 1970s, allowed this tomato to consolidate its reputation in Italian fruit and vegetable markets where it was wholesaled.

Soon, its reputation as a “special” tomato spread throughout the fruit and vegetable supply chain and local producers began to highlight the city of origin, which had become a synonym for quality, on the crates. Over time, continuous experimentation on its varieties has led farms to select the sensory qualities of the tomato that best corresponded to the specific characteristics of the soil in which it was grown and the climate of the area.

Among these, the “cherry” variety, harvested in small clusters, quickly emerged and its success made it the symbol of the Pachino tomato "par excellence”. As the reputation of this product grew, massive imitation by many other producers outside the production area, who peddled tomatoes of similar shape and type as Pachino tomatoes, caused no little concern to local producers.

To combat this phenomenon, in the 1990s, the procedure was begun to obtain a protected geographical indication (PGI) for Pachino tomatoes, which was then officially entered in the European PDO and PGI register. Following this recognition, identified by a special logo and label on the packaging, only tomatoes produced in a specific geographic area, delimited by the production regulations can be certified as IGP (PGI) Pomodoro di Pachino.

The product

One of the most common misconceptions identifies the “ciliegino” (cherry) variety as the only true IGP (PGI) Pomodoro di Pachino but, in reality, the regulations cover four different types of tomato, all with different characteristics and intended for various market segments. All the types share a high Brix level, excellent to post-harvest hardiness and a bright, attractive color.

There are four types. The “tondo-liscio” (round-smooth) is small, round and dark green with an unmistakable taste and dense consistency. The “a grappolo” (cluster) can be green or red and is round and smooth, with a bright colour and very dark green collar. The “costoluto” (ribbed), with a very dark green colour, has won the approval of Italian consumers by replacing the “round salad” type in the winter (the optimal period for the production of this type). The “ciliegino”, also known as “cherry tomatoes”, is a small variety that grows in clusters or as single fruit, which is deep red, fragrant, sweet and juicy.

The area

The IGP (PGI) Pomodoro di Pachino production area includes all of the municipalities of Pachino and Portopalo di Capo Passero and part of Noto (Province of Syracuse) and Ispica (Province of Ragusa). The link between the IGP Pomodoro di Pachino and the production area its based on the uniqueness that sets it apart.

In fact, it was found that the success of the authentic IGP Pomodoro di Pachino is based on the salinity of the irrigation water, the excellent fertility of the soil, the very mild temperatures found only in this restricted area and high exposure to sunlight: in fact, the district has about 30% more sunlight than surrounding areas. Recent studies have shown that the luminosity and radiant intensity of the southern part of the province of Syracuse (and Pachino in particular) is the highest in Europe.

Consorzio di tutela del Pomodoro di Pachino with MiPAAF

 

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