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Roccadaspide chestnut

It is well known that the tomato came from America, but now it has found its ideal habitat in the Neapolitan area, where it continues to prosper and evolve towards a higher quality of domesticated species. Tomato farming has become a veritable art form and the traditionality of this production has been documented since the eighteenth century by numerous bibliographical sources as well as the habit of reproducing cherry tomatoes among the vegetables of the nativity scene. The Neapolitans are said to have introduced the use of the tomato into Italian cuisine and, through the preserving industry, to have spread it all over the worl

One of the most valued and characteristic local varieties is to be found in the area of the Vesuvius national park: it is the renowned Vesuvius preserving cherry tomato, locally known as "del Piennolo" (or "del Pendolo" - pendulum). On the slopes of Vesuvius, cultivated on small plots of land between 150 and 450 metres above sea level, without irrigation, the Vesuvius cherry tomato receives maximum benefits from the volcanic soil and generous sun. Even its "fiery" colour is a gift from the volcano and it is said that the roots of the tomatoes feed on the lava of Vesuvius. The rest is done by the loving care of the farmers who maintain traditional techniques, involving the aid of supports with wooden stakes and wire, to prevent the tomatoes from touching the ground so that they receive the sun's rays evenly and get an all-round colour. The fruit weigh little more than 20 grams, are rounded but slightly plum-shaped, with a peculiar little point at the lower end and some depressions at the other extremity. The skin is thick and the flesh is firm with a delicious and unmistakably bittersweet flavour due to the concentration of sugars and mineral salts. The typical preservation of these cherry tomatoes is in "piennoli": the whole hunches, called "schiocche", are harvested between July and August before they are completely ripe, then put on a hemp string and tied in a ring, thus making a single large bunch weighing several kilograms that is hung in dry, ventilated places. This system favours slow ripening and makes it possible to have the "fresh red gold" until the spring following the year of cultivation. The long natural preservation is due to the fact that the plants are grown without irrigation and the thick skin, which limits dehydration. The single cherry tomatoes can be picked from the "piennolo" and used in many typical Neapolitan dishes: adding a finishing touch to pizzas, bruschetta, spaghetti, sauces, rich fish dishes and a thousand other recipes. Families in the Vesuvius area used to prepare the classic "bottled tomatoes" after sieving them or putting them in containers in "filleted" strips ("pacchetelle"). The traditional farming methods on often inaccessible plots of land, together with the special processing after the harvest, require a large availability of labour. This increases production costs that are already high due to low yields ascribable to lack of irrigation. This explains the gradual reduction of the cultivated surface area, also due to the lack of generational changeover when older farmers retire. One hopes for an inversion of this trend with the arrival of the DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) label. A committee has been set up to promote the application for this coveted recognition by the EU. The committee is made up of young farmers and supported by the National Park of Vesuvius Board that has shown its support in many ways in view of an integrated development of the territory.
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