For dedicated fans of Italian food, Pomodoro!:A History of the Tomato in Italy by David Gentilcore published in 2010 is a recommended read. The author is a professor of early modern history at the University of Leicester in the UK, but the quality of writing and pace of the book is better than the output of most academics. It is also more widely researched than most tomes about food, both academic and otherwise.
It is chock full of interesting facts about the Italians’ and Italian-Americans’ favorite fruit (that is used as a vegetable). One regards the influence of the British breakfast habits on the development of Italy’s most famous tomato. The traditional full British breakfast consists of bacon, sausage, poached or fried eggs, baked beans, toast with butter, and grilled tomatoes. It is likely the antecedent to the far superior big American breakfast.
However lacking in comparison to our breakfasts, one component of the British version had deep resonance in Italy:
“British demand was able to affect production strategies in Italy. In fact… the British were indirectly responsible for the introduction of the ‘San Marzano’…. The British like fresh tomatoes cooked, especially baked or grilled…there was no way for whole tomatoes to by enjoyed beyond the short growing season [in the UK]… In southern Italy, it turned out that the small, egg-shaped tomato varieties that were most popular here also were suited being canned whole….
The tomato variety that made this all possible was a… ‘recent cross’ between the ‘Re Umberto’ and ‘Fiaschetto’ varieties. This was the ‘San Marzano’, variety after the town near Salerno, where it was first cultivated. In just a few years, the ‘San Marzano’ had become the major variety used for canned whole tomatoes.”
The delectable San Marzano was quick to reach preeminence in Campania near Naples after getting a boost from the Brits.