If Luigi Veronelli were still alive, what would he think of the Pachino IGP tomatoes? Would you include them in the Italian gastronomic deposits or not? What is certain is that the cherry tomatoes Pachino deserve reflection and not just to desecrate the history of a typical product that is not so typical, but to reflect on the whole 'traditional Italian cuisine' system and get off the pedestal of certain parochialisms. This statement is not meant to hurt the ego of the undisputed supporters of Italian cuisine as the mother and beacon of food in the world, but rather to remind them that so much goodness stems from the cultural contamination of the peoples who have alternated or established trade relations with Italy for centuries introducing ingredients and recipes.

Pachino tomatoes PGI: an irreverent story

Pachino Tomatoes Made in Israel

Pachino is a town of about 21,500 inhabitants located in Sicily, at the southernmost tip of the province of Syracuse. Its position straddling the Mediterranean Sea and the Ionian Sea gives it a hot and sultry climate in summer, dry in spring and autumn and mild in winter as well as the highest concentration of solar radiation on the entire Sicilian island.

Its geographical location has made it the scene of a continuous succession of peoples: Phoenicians, Punics, Greeks, Byzantines, Normans, Aragonese and Angevins inhabited Pachino over the centuries. It is therefore not surprising that the contemporary Israeli company Hazera Genetics also thought of using it as a bridge to bring the seeds of its cherry tomatoes to Italy.

Pachino tomatoes Syracuse Sicily

Pachino tomatoes PGI: from seed to fruit

Hazera Genetics is a global seed market leader and has created the Pachino tomatoes in 1989 with MAS, or Marker Assisted Selection. This technique consists of creating a fruit with particular characteristics in the laboratory through cross-breeding and hybridization, and in a relatively quick process, we achieve what nature could do in millennia (assuming it is of interest). Pachino cherry tomatoes in particular are F1-type hybrids, i.e. they are the first generation of crosses of different breeds with the enhancement of a certain characteristic by segregation and are therefore unstable, i.e. not only do they not maintain the selected positive character in subsequent generations, but they risk carrying the negative characters that have been carried along in the process.

This means that one cannot import seeds just once and then reproduce the plants, but has to procure new F1 seeds every time one wants to grow Pachino tomato seedlings. This means that Italian farmers, season after season, have travelled between Pachino and Tel Aviv to procure the precious and expensive seeds from which to obtain Pachino PGI tomatoes. No wonder, then, at the cost of these delicious cherry tomatoes if they also had to amortise the journey! Fortunately, things have become easier over the years: today you can buy the seedlings directly in nurseries, to the delight of the connoisseurs' purse!

Pachino tomatoes: the introduction of the tomato in Italy

Not only is the Pachino IGP tomato not of Italian origin, but even Syracuse farmers were very reluctant to introduce it because of its high cost compared to classic salad tomatoes. It took Hazera Genetics' two years of commercial insistence combined with the improvement of the tomato's shelf-life - which could reach 2-3 weeks from harvest - to convince farmers to buy the seeds. The ultimate success, however, was marked by the lack of seasonality: Pachino tomatoes - also thanks to the favourable climate - were always available.

Pachino IGP tomato: specification and types

The specification allows three types (descriptions on the official website of the Consorzio dei pomodori Pachino IGP):

  • smooth round: 'small and round, dark green in colour, unmistakable for its very pronounced flavour. It is spherical and regular in shape, small in size and has a distinctive colouring ranging from bright red to deep green near the stalk';
  • ribbed: "flarge, slightly flattened, aesthetically very attractive burp with pronounced ribs and a very dark, bright green colour';
  • cherry: "caracteristic for the appearance cherry on a herringbone cluster with small, round fruit, excellent colour and high brix degree'.

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Pachino IGP cherry tomatoes: uses and food and wine pairings

Regardless of the type of tomato and its organoleptic characteristics, what matters most in defining the pairing is its role in the preparation (is it the star of the recipe or are there other main ingredients?) and whether it is cooked. If Pachino tomatoes are eaten raw, in fact, what matters most is the eventual seasoning (extra virgin olive oil? Balsamic vinegar of Modena? Other?), whereas if Pachino tomatoes are cooked, the cooking method becomes fundamental in the food-wine pairing.

Pachino tomatoes PGI: organoleptic characteristics and raw consumption

  • smooth round: 'crispy pulp with a harmonious and balanced taste due to a perfect harmony between acidity and sugar content. To appreciate its qualities, it is recommended to eat it raw';
  • ribbed: “soft flesh with a pleasantly aromatic taste';
  • cherrysoft sweet and juicy flesh.

All these tomatoes are characterised by a high degree of acidity and, when eaten raw seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, call for a dry, alcoholic and soft white wine like a Romagna Albana DOC. The softness balances the acidity, while the alcohol content dries out the unctuousness of the seasoning.

Pachino tomatoes PGI: what to combine with various cooking methods?

Cherry tomatoes are used in a multitude of recipes, so that defining a universal pairing rule makes no sense. However, to have a general indication of pairing, it can be said that the tomato with cooking concentrates the taste, in particular the umami, and decreases the acidity. Umami is a taste that can be defined as savoury rather than savoury and is capable of enriching and making any recipe tasty.

A good food and wine pairing is, therefore, to combine a dry, alcoholic and smooth white wine such as a Romagna Albana DOC as in the previous case, but with a few years on its shoulders, an important PAI (Intense Aromatic Persistence) and even better if from grapes attacked by noble rot, which gives the wine an interesting aromatic twist. The softness balances the acidity, while the alcohol content dries out the unctuousness of the seasoning.

Pachino tomatoes PGI: Designation of Origin Invented

As written by the professor from the University of Parma Alberto Grandi in his valuable book "Invented Denomination of Origin - marketing lies about typical Italian products". (purchase of the book on Amazon to discover other irreverent stories), the Italians have done a great job in creating an 'authentic' typical product - to quote the official website of the Consorzio di Tutela - that has nothing typical about it and in erasing the genetic engineers from the storytelling of the Pachino IGP tomato. After all, isn't it more fascinating to think that its luscious red hue and fleshy flesh are just the fruit of the land, the sea, the wind and the work of the men of the beautiful Sicilian island?

The panoramic photo of Pachino is taken from onlinesiracusa.it