Tomatoes came from the New World in the early 16th century but it took a long time for them to be used for culinary purposes. Nowadays it is impossible to imagine Italian cookery without tomatoes. However when they first appeared on the scene Europeans were very suspicious of this new fruit and thought they were poisonous. However they slowly gained popularity and now the annual consumption of tomatoes in Italy averages 10 kilo’s per head.
The main tomato producing areas are Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia, Puglia and Emilia-Romagna. Over 300 varieties are grown today and there are two kinds. First there are the ones destined for industrial use: for paste -doppo concetrato, the strained and pasteurised juice- passata, the deseeded and chopped pulp -polpa and the whole peeled tomato – pelati and of course last but not least dried tomatoes. The rest are grown for domestic use in salads or in cooking. These days, especially in Italy, taste is prized over uniformity of shape and a long shelf life.