Unlike tomatoes grown for fresh distribution, processing tomatoes generally remain on the vine until both their color and their flavor develops, the primary reason that canned tomatoes tend to be far superior, even in the summer months, to standard commercial tomatoes. In winter and spring, there is no comparison between canned tomato products and fresh tomatoes.
For many years, canned tomatoes imported from Italy were superior to domestic brands. Generally known as San Marzano, a popular variety of Roma tomato named for a specific region near Naples, the designation was enough to sell a can of tomatoes over other brands. The imposition of a 100% tariff on imported tomatoes makes them less attractive than their California equivalents. Also, because of severe industrial pollution, the quality of Italian tomatoes has decreased. It is no longer safe to assume that an import is the best choice. Pomi, packed in small boxes and distributed by Parmalat U.S.A. Corp. are excellent, as are San Marzano tomatoes imported by Taste of the World (Morristown, New Jersey). One of the best domestic brands is Muir Glen, a division of the large Sierra Quality Canners. Muir Glen, based in Sacramento, California, is producing canned whole tomatoes, ground tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and several other tomato products from organically grown tomatoes. Founded in 1990, the company is named in honor of the great 19th century environmentalist John Muir.
Muir Glen, founded in 1990 and named for great 19th century environmentalist John Muir, contracts directly with organic farmers throughout California's central valley to grow tomatoes to their specifications. After harvest, the tomatoes are trucked to Sierra Quality Packer's facility in Gilroy for processing, where they are packed in lead-free steel containers that have been lined with white enamel to eliminate the slight metallic taste of many canned tomato products.
Copyright 1996 by Michele Anna Jordan, author of The Good Cook's Book of Tomatoes. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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