A tomato Queen with her crown grows in the salty lands of the Coastal Dune Park, between Torre Canne and Egnazia, in the south East of Italy. It is a tomato that takes its name from the shape of its peduncle, which grows into a crown: this is why it is called Pomodoro Regina, literally the Tomato Queen.
Her majesty is distinguished from the other tomatoes by the thick skin, a characteristic due to irrigation with sea water which increases its shelf life and resistance to parasites. This tomato variety can be stored for several months after harvest, until late winter! During the harvest, which usually begins in July, it is important that the peduncles remains attached so that the tomatoes can be tied together with cotton thread and to form clusters which are then tied together with hemp rope to hang them at high strored in the typical trulli and masserie, the typical buidings of this region.
The cultivation of the queen tomato developed from the mid-800s and gradually replaced the cotton plantations which were used to manufacture sheets, towels, tablecloths and fabrics and embroidered at home by women. When cotton began to be purchased from America and Asia, cotton plantations gave way to those of tomatoes and wheat. But cotton did not disappear completely and some cotton plants were left among the rows of tomatoes to make it available for the production of the strings used to braid the
The original seed of the Regina tomato, jealously preserved and reproduced every year by the local farmers, and the environmental conditions have favoured its adaptation to the hot and arid local territory: the queen tomato plants are generally cultivated on particularly fertile sandy soils and are irrigated sporadically using brackish water from the aquifers. This agronomic practice has favoured the obtaining of very tasty fruits.
Pomodoro Regina has recently been the subject of an important study supported by the Puglia Region in the framework of the Rural Development Program 2014-2020 Biodiversity of vegetable crops in Puglia (BiodiverSO). The results of the study, which aimed to assess the physical and chemical properties of the tomato at the time of harvest and after three months of storage, were published in the scientific journal Agriculture in the article Quality and Nutritional Evaluation of Regina Tomato, a Traditional Long-Storage Landrace of Puglia (Southern Italy) written by Massimiliano Renna, Miriana Durante, Maria Gonnella, Donato Buttaro, Massimiliano D’Imperio,Giovanni Mita e Francesco Serio.
The experimental results have confirmed that the queen tomato is characterised by high concentrations of tocopherols, lycopene and ascorbic acid, meaning that it is rich in biological antioxidants capable of exerting a protective effect against oxidative stresses in the human body. This profile combined with an average lower glucose and fructose content than other types of tomatoes attests to the high nutritional quality of this variety. The results of the study, in addition to determining the qualitative and nutritional properties of the queen tomato, have highlighted the unique characteristics linked to the cultivation area, the climate, the environment and the unique traditional production techniques.
The Regina tomato is part of the list of traditional agri-food products of the Italian Department for Agriculture and defined as Slow Food Presidium by the Slow Food Foundation.
ref: MDPI Agriculture, published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland