San Marzano tomato seed saving question

ikea_gwAugust 20, 2011

I was looking for some paste tomatoes to supplement my own harvest at the farmers market today. At one stand, they had some beautiful looking paste tomatoes so I asked the lady what they were. She said they were San Marzano, not the hybrid kind but the heirloom San Marzano. They look to be about the same shape as my opalka but slightly smaller with a pointed tip, about 4 inches long on average. The color is a deep shade of red and the skin is quite shiny.

My question is twofold. Does this sound like the true San Marzano? And if I save the seeds would next generation be the same?

I am fairly happy with my opalka but I've always wanted to try growing San Marzano. I add a lot of heirloom beefsteak tomatoes to my tomato sauce but it is so much easier to skin and unseed the paste types.


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There are a couple of sub-varieties of San Marzano and no real way to tell them apart by looking at them except for size and taste. So all you can do it take the lady's word for it. If they are really the original Italian heirloom variety rather than Redorta or Super or 5380 then they will breed true. If not, they will likely revert back to one of the parent stock.

Grow them and see what happens. The odds are in your favor.


Here is a link that might be useful: San Marzano pics

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 12:37PM
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According to a research review on the origin of San Marzano around 1960, there is no real one San Marzano variety. No one source can truly claim they have "the San Marzano". At it's origin, San Marzano was a "type", never a single variety, that was grown in Italy. Plants and fruit varied. Seeds of these different types were widely distributed from different sources in Italy throughout Europe, the US and South America and by 1960 there existed many different ones based on regional preferences. So many different lines are called 'San Marzano'. Those claiming they have the original are probably doing so for marketing purposes or to somehow claim it is theirs.

So if it's something you like go ahead and save it. If it wasn't a hybrid and didn't cross it should come back to that type.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 12:43PM
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I picked the largest ones at the farm stand, and they average about 4.2 ounce and a bit over 4 inches long. Only difference I can see between these and the photos Dave linked to is that my tomatoes are "curvier." They start out straight down from the shoulder but have a pronounced "hip" half way through. The shape really reminds me of opalka. Although I think the smaller ones at the farm stand have less of a curve.

I think I will save the seeds and grow a couple out next year. Nothing to lose here I guess. I will still grow my opalka for sure.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 1:34PM
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I recieved San Marzano seed in a trade last winter and expected them to be similar in size and texture to Opalkas. Now that they're ripening I'm very disappointed to see that they are more like Dave's 1st 2 photos and about the size of Romas. I'll definitely drop those next year and stay with Opalkas and Big Mamas.
John A

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 1:42PM
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John, how big are the San Marzano tomatoes you grew? 2 or 3 inches long? How is the flavor?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 2:06PM
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