In today’s world of industrially manufactured tomatoes, hydroponically grown having never seen soil, Raffaele is safeguarding some of our most valuable cultural heritage. We’ve been working with him since 2014, but his family has been growing tomatoes in Torre del Greco for generations.
The mineral complexities of volcanic soil, the dry, rich sea air, the high-salinity water, and abundant sunshine provide tomato plants with an ideal growing environment. Winters are mild, summers are hot and there is always plenty of light. Torre del Greco, next to Sicily, is one of the areas in Italy with the least amount of rainfall; humidity is thirty to forty per cent less than outside this parcel of land. Minimal watering is a careful balancing act; at once ensuring that the plant stays alive but stressing it enough to produce the high concentration of sugars and nutrients - the key to its incredible flavour.
Raffaele’s Cuore del Vesuvio are grown from a family seed two generations old. Each year, through the selection and saving of seeds from the best fruit, it moves closer to perfection. This tomato is also as personal as it gets: it is the result of choices made by one grower, and consequently, completely unique.
A clean horizontal cut across a Cuore di Vesuvio will reveal a percentage of flesh to seed which is the highest we’ve ever seen: meaty, a tomato steak. The vertical cut will reveal the seed clusters; these are compact, displaying a dense, bumpy flesh with a shiny patina, with low gelatinous matter around the seeds. These clusters do not go through from top to bottom but rather stop around two-thirds down, meaning the bottom third of the tomato is pure, unadulterated flesh.It is incredibly varied in size, from 150gr to over 1kg – how the plant copes under such weight is testament to the care that Raffaele puts into his work.
Most tomatoes from this region are harvested too soon, “ripening” in transit. We turned the model on its head and use innovation to elevate and redirect growing traditions with flavour in mind, not shelf life. We adapt our supply chain to be able to bring Raffaele’s crop to London at full maturity, when the fruit has absorbed the greatest nutritional density and flavour from the plant.