SAN MARZANO TOMATOES: REAL OR FAKE?

Posted: August 14, 2015 in Food, Italian, san marzano, tomatoes
Tags: , , ,

If you do your share of Italian recipes, a common product found in just about any store has many people confused: San Marzano tomatoes. Most good cooks agree that San Marzano tomatoes are some of the best canned tomatoes you can buy.

But unfortunately,  the label can say “San Marzano tomatoes” even if they are not real San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano is a region in Italy near Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, and the special combination of climate and volcanic soil make these plum tomatoes world-famous. They have less water, fewer seeds and are picked off the vine when perfectly ripe, then processed the same day.

But San Marzano is a variety of tomato, too…and so you can have a can of San Marzano tomatoes that are not from San Marzano. And to add to the confusion, there’s actually a brand of tomatoes called San Marzano, with tomatoes grown in the United States. Bet your ass the sellers of these tomatoes are counting on you not to know the difference!

Sold everywhere, but not real San Marzanos from Italy. Grown in the USA.

The company has now changed their label, just calling it "SM."

The company has now changed their label, just calling it “SMT.”

Real San Marzano Tomatoes are a very old variety, extremely limited in quantity, grown and produced exclusively in the San Marzano region of Italy. Because production is so very limited, the Italian Government and the European Union have formed a way of protecting consumers from fraud by having San Marzano tomatoes tightly controlled. DOP, or denomination of protected origin, is the mechanism that the government is using to control the production and marketing of genuine San Marzano tomatoes. Labels for DOP products must be individually numbered and manually applied to each can in specific lots and government officials must oversee this application. So here’s the deal: unless you see “DOP” on the label with a hand-stamped number on the can, it’s not a real San Marzano tomato.

Nope. Italian, but not from the region.

Nope. Italian, and the correct variety, but not from the region.

Nope. "San Marzano region," but not necessarily the variety.

Nope. “San Marzano region,” but not necessarily the variety.

Nope. San Marzan "style."

Nope. San Marzan “style.”

Yes! Always look for D.O.P. on the can or jar.

Yes! Always look for D.O.P. on the can or jar.

 

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Comments
  1. K.Moore says:

    just saw “SMT” labels at the grocery store for the first time. noticed right away. so sneaky and annoying. thanks for the images and details!

    Like

  2. Lisa Price says:

    Cento Brand is from Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy. http://cento.com/sanmarzano/sanmarzano.html#findMyField

    Like

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