The “Piennolo” tomato, between history and legends

by Francesco Li Volti

The tomato is a fruit that comes from South America and there is no rain on this. In the beginning the Aztecs they called him xitomatl and the sauce produced was an integral part of their cuisine. But the Piennolo they didn't have it because it is a product that grows only and exclusively on the slopes of Vesuvius. In fact, the ideal soils for the cultivation of the Piennolo tomato are undoubtedly the result of millennia of stratification of the lava, typical of the Vesuvian area; they are places that are 300 meters above sea level and that are difficult to reach: for this reason they are often nicknamed “mountain” tomatoes.

When the tomato arrived in Naples thanks to the viceroy of Peru who wanted to pay homage to the new king of Naples Ferdinand IV, it was immediately thought of cultivating it in the most fertile areas of the Kingdom. From Vesuvius to the volcanic areas of Agnano, in Naples it was necessary to grow this new food.

The Piennolo tomato it is characterized by the singular point downwards and by its hard skin of an intense red color: its intense taste is recognizable thanks to the force of attachment to the peduncle, the high concentration of sugars, acids and other soluble solids that make it a long-lasting product conservation during which none of its organoleptic qualities undergoes alterations.

These peculiarities are deeply linked to the climatic factors typical of the geographical area in which the tomato is grown where the soils, of volcanic origin, are made up of pyroclastic material originating from the eruptive events of the Somma-Vesuvius volcanic complex. They are traditionally gathered in clusters and hung on balconies, thus taking the name of piennolo (pendulum) or pin (for the lace they present at their ends).

The areas where these varieties are most cultivated are in the entire territory of the municipalities of the province of Naples: Boscoreale, Boscotrecase, Cercola, Ercolano, Massa Di Somma, Ottaviano, Pollena Trocchia, Portici, Sant'Anastasia, San Giorgio a Cremano, San Giuseppe Vesuviano, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Somma Vesuviana, Terzigno, Torre Annunziata, Torre del Greco, Trecase and in a part of the territory of the municipality of Nola.

Piennolo cherry tomatoes have fully entered the Neapolitan nativity scene for almost two centuries, becoming a symbol with its golden apples hanging in the innkeepers' taverns. The first to tell us about the Piennolo tomato was Achille Bruno in 1847 within the work "Civil annals of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies", Where in the paragraph entitled"Vegetables and their cultivation in the city of Naples“, He speaks of the very tasty cherry tomatoes, which“ remain excellent until spring, as long as they are tied in wreaths and suspended from the attics ”.

The following descriptions date back to the publications of Luigi Palmieri and the lyrics of Francesco De Rosa, professor of Directed Higher School of Agriculture of Portici in the years 1885, 1902 and 1916. De Rosa on his "Italy Horticultural"Of November 1902, stated that"the old Vesuvian "cerasella" was gradually replaced by the "flask" type, more suitable for conservation at Piennolo“.

The legends surrounding the history of the Piennolo tomato are interesting. The first tells of the birth of the city of Naples, created by Lucifer stealing a piece of Paradise; but the touch of the devil made the earth dry and barren and for this reason Jesus he began to shed tears at the sight of the land stolen from Heaven, which falling on the slopes of Vesuvius made that volcanic land fertile: from there the wonderful and tasty Piennolo tomatoes were born.
Another legend tells that a Greek's tower, the fishermen's wives used to take care of weaving and arranging the nets that were used for fishing.

However, when husbands went to sea to continue working, the women used the same procedure to weave the small knots of the nets of our mythical "piennolo".


The king of Naples. The great history of the tomato from Naples to conquer the world, Angelo Forgione, Addictions-Magenes Editoriale, 2019

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Franco 7 September 2020 - 20:50

I always read to you very willingly but is it possible that Salvini's advertisement should appear for the next elections? We are southerners, proud and ancient, does it seem appropriate to give spaces, for a fee, to these characters? While a reader is discovering lines of articles on Neapolitan culture? Come on…

Francesco Li Volti 7 September 2020 - 20:54

Unfortunately we do not insert advertising but it changes from person to person based on the searches that you users do. They are called plugins in these advertisements. You can see that lately he will have been doing political research. We certainly do not insert advertisements for political parties. Have a good evening.


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