Tomato 'San Marzano'. (Collection)

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Quick Overview

'San Marzano' is a classic plum/paste type of tomato from Italy, it produces clusters of delicious, elongated fruit.. This variety is a compact and prolific producer and performs best if staked. This heritage tomato is one of the jewels in Campania's crown.

'San Marzano' is a classic plum/paste type of tomato from Italy

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  • 'San Marzano' is a classic plum/paste type of tomato from Italy
  • The fruit have the characteristic elongated "plum" shape, firm flesh and a low number of seeds.
  • This is the 'plum tomato par excellence" and one of the main originators of the success of the Mediterranean diet.


'San Marzano' is a classic plum/paste type of tomato from Italy. Borne on intermediate vines, this variety produces clusters of delicious, elongated fruit and performs best if staked. It is a compact and prolific producer of bright-red, slim, 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in), plum-type which fruit over a long season. It is crack resistant with heavy walls and little juice. It has a bittersweet taste. The fruit have the characteristic elongated "plum" shape, firm flesh and a low number of seeds. The skin is an intense bright red colour and peels off easily. It is fragrant and fleshy, rich in flavour (which enhances traditional dishes of Italian cuisine, the world's best for pasta sauce) and rich in nutrients.

'San Marzano' is the 'plum tomato par excellence" and one of the main originators of the success of the Mediterranean diet. It is talked about all over the world; it is more and more sought after by the United States and Japanese markets and even North European countries have already welcomed it with open arms. It is the San Marzano tomato, one of the jewels in Campania's crown and of the whole tomato industry in general.

The story goes that the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano.

Timing: As they cannot tolerate any degree of frost the timing for sowing and planting outside is key to successfully growing tomatoes. Where the seeds are sown under cover or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage to be transplanted outside three weeks after the last frost date. Tomato plants take roughly seven weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. For example, if your last frost date is early May, the seeds should be planted in early April to allow transplanting at the end of May.

Position: Tomatoes require a full sun position. Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The best soil used for containers is half potting compost and half a soil-based type loam: this gives some weight to the soil.

Sowing: Plant about 3mm (1/8in) deep, in small pots using seed starting compost. Water lightly and keep consistently moist until germination occurs. Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 -10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 21-27°C (70-80°F). As soon as they emerge, place them in a location that receives a lot of light and a cooler temperature (60-70°F); a south-facing window should work.

Transplanting: When the plants develop their first true leaves, and before they become root bound, they should be transplanted into larger into 4 inch pots. Young plants are very tender and susceptible to frost damage, as well as sunburn. I protect my young plants by placing a large plastic milk jug, with the bottom removed, to form a miniature greenhouse. Depending on the components of your compost, you may need to begin fertilising. If you do fertilise, do it very, very sparingly with a weak dilution. Transplant into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. Two to three weeks prior to this, the plants should be hardened off.

Planting: Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support. As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows.

Dig a hole 45cm (18in) apart in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball as undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine –allow some slack for future growth.

Cultivation: A constant supply of moisture is essential, dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser (high in potash) starting when the first fruits start to form, and every two or three weeks up to the end of August. In September, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage. Over watering may help to produce larger fruit, but flavour may be reduced. Additionally, splitting and cracking can result from uneven and excessive watering.

Pruning: When the first fruits begin to form, pinch out the side shoots between the main stem. Also remove lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing to avoid infection.

Harvesting: Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe, this also encourages the production of more fruit. Harvest all the fruit as soon as frost threatens and ripen on a window sill.

It might be old, but it's still a good one! An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: Dear Vincent, I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days. Love, Papa A few days later he received a letter from his son. Dear Pop, Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. Love, Vinnie At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologised to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son. Dear Pop, Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances. Love you, Vinnie

Additional Information

Packet Size 300mg
Average Seed Count 100 Seeds
Genus Lycopersicon
Species esculentum
Cultivar San Marzano
Synonym No
Common Name Plum Tomato, Heritage (Italian 1770)
Vine / Cordon (Indeterminate)
Other Common Names No
Hardiness Half Hardy Annual
Hardy No
Flowers No
Natural Flower Time No
Fruit Red, elongated plum shaped fruit
Foliage No
Height 150cm (60in)
Spread No
Spacing 60cm (24in)
Time to Harvest 78 days
Size No
Qualities No
Position No
Aspect No
Soil No
Season Mid-Season
Harvest No
Time to Sow Early April to End May
Growing Period No
Coverage No
Germination No
Notes Red in colour.

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