Tomato is a plant of ancient origins (about 7 million years ago). Researchers identify Peru as the original area of this crop, although it is still not certain today.

The first evidence of the use of tomato berries date back to the time of conquest of Latin America by Cortés, in which it was discovered that the tomato plant was called tomatl or xitomatl by the Mexicans. For centuries it was blamed for being a harmful plant (since wild varieties were also imported that could be toxic) and it took about two hundred years before this fruit became part the food of the European population. Even in Italy, the first sightings of the tomato plant as one of the species found only in botanical gardens.

Photo provided by Isi Sementi S.p.A.

In the mid-1700s, contrary to the botanist thinking, Italian and Spanish farmers, realising the potential of this crop and its possible use, began to select the varieties which best suited the cultivation needs. At that time the tomato plant was of small size and spread on the ground, cultivated together with corn, and the berry was yellow: from this characteristic it was called “Pomo d’oro”, given by the Andrea Mattioli naturalist and doctor.

In southern Italy the use of tomatoes increases. And it is around the early 1800s that the “puree/preserve” enters the recipe books of noble families, thanks to the research begun by Spallanzani and Appert on the food preservation in food containers.

In 1856, the history of the preservation industry began with Francesco Cirio when he opened the first company that canned peas in Turin; when he died in 1900 in Italy there were more than a hundred preserving companies.

But in Parma, where our association finds the true and ideal cradle, where tomato preserves started, giving life to a product that has been able to spread and be appreciated throughout the world. In fact, the first experiment of industry production of a tomato derivative dates back to 1888, thanks to Cav. Brandino Vignali who, in Basilicanova (Parma), produced a “tomato extract” by drying concentrated tomato juice in the sun in large copper containers.

From then until the beginning of the Great War, there were 60 preserving companies which produced one and a half million quintals of processed tomato.

Therefore, our producers have a secular knowledge of this product cultivation allows our Country to be among the leaders in the world.

Today this plant with a thousand-year history together with the potato, is the most widespread and cultivated vegetable species in the world (besides Italy and Spain, it is also cultivated in China, the United States, Turkey and in various other parts of the world). This proves the importance it has in our food diet.

Source: “Il Pomodoro”, from the “Coltura & Cultura” series, website: