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Tomatoes in San Diego

Somewhere on these board I saw a discussion about tomatoes to rival San Marzano and where to find them in San Diego. Can't find the thread with a search.
Any info? Interested in canned and fresh.

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  1. Henry's has imported canned San Marzano tomatoes, last time I checked. They are a little sweeter than good Roma/Plumb tomatoes from California.

    Personally, I didn't find the difference to be worth the price, and I don't like the idea of shipping pounds of tomatoes across the Atlantic when we grown nice ones a few hours north.

    During those few weeks in summer when local tomatoes are truly ripe, the local farmers' markets are a great place to buy fresh tomatoes. Otherwise, canned are almost always better.

    1. For canned San Marzano, the brand is Glen Muir (I think) and it's carried by Henry's for sure, and most likely Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I'm not sure if you can buy them fresh here, because they have to be grown in Italy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: hoosfoos

        Not TJ's, at least not the Hillcrest location. But Whole Foods is probably a safe bet... they own Henry's, now.

        1. re: Joseph

          they own henry's now!? hopefully henry's costs will still stay down =( what a great source for veggies and fruit when i'm not near 99 ranch market


          1. re: clayfu

            Whole Foods purchased Henry's last week. Not sure if the transaction has been completed or not. According to the article in last week's U/T not all stores will remain open and many of the remaining stores will be remodeled and repositioned.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Whole Foods purchased Wild Oats, which had purchased Henry's a couple of years ago. You might have noticed that Henry's stores were slowly being upgraded with better gourmet selections. That was the Wild Oats influence. I was offered a job with Henry's at the time doing their in-store marketing, but ultimately wiht the purchase by Wild Oats, the job moved to Boulder and I did not.

              I don't see that Henry's "farm market" concept fits with the Whole Foods model, so I wouldn't be suprised if we lose most of what we've all come to love about Henry's.

              On topic: I use a lot of canned tomotoes, and haven't found the San Marzano's (found in Little Italy or Whole Foods) worth the price difference. Most of my use of them is long-cooking, so Progresso works well in that application.

      2. I have seen the canned San Marzano tomatoes at Bristol Farms and Assenti's in Little Italy. They are very expensive, about five bucks a can. San Marzano is actually the brand name and they are imported from Italy. Muir Glen is an organic brand that is carried in Trader Joes (some of the products anyway) and Henry's - among other stores. Not sure about WF, but I wouldn't doubt it.

        I have a hard time believing the San Marzanos are that much better than the Muir Glen - especially when cooked up in a recipe, so I have never bought them - but I've heard that they are sweeter than run of the mill canned tomatoes. I'd be interested to hear from someone who has tried them.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Alice Q

          There is a clear difference between San Marzano and Muir Glen tomatoes. San Marzano have a slightly sweeter more complex taste whereas Muir Glen is a "normal" canned tomatoe like many other brands. I personally only use San Marzano and you get them for a reasonable price (about $1.80 for a small can and about $3.50 for a large can) at WF

          1. re: Alice Q

            I believe San Marzano is a place in Italy known for its tomatoes, according to my cookbook and wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Marz...) It has a DOP (controlled origin stamp) like Italian cheeses and wines. There are several brands available, from what I can tell.

            I thought the sweet tomatoes I bought, labeled "San Marzano" and "Imported from Italy", were the real thing, but I didn't check for the DOP label.

            1. re: Joseph

              The reason the real Italian tomatoes are sweeter is because they are picked vine ripe and quickly processed to capture and preserve the flavour.

          2. I have tried T.Joe's organic tomatoes and I don't think they're very sweet; in fact, I think most other brands are sweeter. I'm not a fan of T.Joe's other canned tomatoes either because they all have added basil.

            1. I don't think Trader Joes tomatoes are organic. Muir Glen makes several different varieties - I like the fire roasted ones.

              I balked at paying 5 bucks for the San Marzanos, but I will look for them at WF next time I am in. They are specifically recommended in the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alice Q

                Trader Joe's offers several choices of canned tomatoes, and one of them is organic.

                Hey why not...I guess I'll check out these ones at WF too.

              2. As I mentioned on the Pizza in SD thread,


                one of the main reasons pizza is best in Naples is that the best tomatoes in Italy come from just outside Naples. But I have to admit, I never knew the specific name of the place until this thread. Sure enough, it's San Marzano. I also didn't know you could get tomatoes imported from that specific area. Very interesting!

                4 Replies
                1. re: mangiatore

                  There are tomatoes named as San Marzano tomatoes even if they don't come from the region. Look for the DOP sign. The volcanic soil used to grow these tomatoes makes the difference and gives them the unique flavor.
                  On few occasion WorldMarket had also San Marzano tomatoes for $1.50 for the big can. Major Market is also a good source with good prices.

                  1. re: honkman

                    I'm definitely going to have to check this out. Thanks.

                    1. re: honkman

                      Now that's more like it! At $1.50 a can it might be worth a trip to WorldMarket just for the tomatoes. Are you referring to Cost Plus World Market? (http://www.worldmarket.com/)

                      1. re: Joseph

                        Yes. But I have only seen this item from time to time.
                        You might also look at the Barron's in Del Mar, Jimbo's and Major Market in Escondido. They have often different brands of San Marzano tomatoes with quite different prices. I forgot at which shop but as far as I remember one of them has a brand which has a white can with blue writings on it which often the cheapest San Marzano tomatoes.

                  2. Have you tried the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sundays?
                    It is located in the DMV parking lot on Normal Street until 1pm .

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      Yes. This past week the only tomatoes were not organic (not that oraganic is a requirement for super tomatoes!) from Oceanside. But not very memorable. I definitely will try some of the brands everyone has mentioned!

                    2. I've found that the tomatoes labeled San Marzano are not always from Italy. For instance, the ones you usually find in Whole Foods and elsewhere, in the white cans with drawings of red tomatoes on them, are called San Marzano but are from New Jersey, from a SM seedling or some such thing. Still very good, close to the imported and about half the price.

                      If you know anyone in the food or restaurant biz, get them to pick up a can of Stanislaus tomatoes from Restaurant Depot (not open to the public). Stanislaus only sells to restaurants, and the cans are very large, but they are the best you will find domestically, and rival the best San Marzano. Grown and canned by the same family in the central valley for years, using very intensive selection and quality control. You have to plan on making a couple gallons of sauce at a time and freezing some, but it's worth it.

                      1. Thanks for the tip on the white can ones - I think those are the ones I saw for like 5 bucks at Bristol Farms ! I will definitely read the cans carefully before buying.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Alice Q

                          Also found them at my local Albertson's, and I think they were around $3 to $4 for the big cans.

                        2. You can get real San Marzano at markets in Little Italy like Fillipi's and Mona Lisa. I bought some there called Rega brand. I was not impressed at all with the flavor. Muir Glen or pasta sauce in the bottle from Trader Joe's is better IMHO.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pantani

                            Try La Vallee or Cento brands. Both are available at Assenti Pasta on India Street, across from Mona Lisa. It is definitely worth the extra $1 for San Marzano tomatoes.

                          2. Bristol Farms in La Jolla sells certified authentic imported Cento whole San Marzano tomatoes. Whole foods/SproutsWindmill Farms does not. Whole foods has san marzano on the labels, but they are domestically (USA) grown. Unlike other brands of canned tomatoes, even muir glen, Cento San Marzano whole tomatoes are packed in a tomato sauce with a sprig of basil. There is a HUGE difference in taste and they make a superior marinara sauce. I will never use any other for my italian dishes. They are about $5 a 28 oz. can. They supposedly have another brand for 4.30 a 28 oz can, but I haven't examine the labels on those. As with wine grapes, the difference is the dirt in which the plant is grown in. We may be able to grow San Marzano variety here, but I doubt we can duplicate the soil (I haven't any volcanoes around my neck of the woods).

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: noonietunes

                              My Vons in pacific beach now sells the Cento's. About $5 for a big can. I don't use anything else. Once in a while we go to Mona Lisa or one of the other markets in Little Italy and buy the GIANT industrial size of the Cento's. :-)

                              1. re: noonietunes

                                I just pleasantly discovered Windmill Farms in Del Cerro started carrying Delallo brand D.O.P certified imported San Marzanos! Haven't compared them with Cento yet, but they say they are also packed in tomato juice (not water like other brands of regular canned tomatoes).

                                1. re: noonietunes

                                  Be careful with those San Marzanos from Windmill Farms. They had a 2 cans for $5 a while ago and I thought "great, what a deal". NOT. They were awful. I had to end up dumping the pot of whatever it was I was making and tossed the 2nd can unopened. One of the few things at Windmill Farms that's been a complete bust. I don't recall if it was their Delallo brand or something else, but they were awful.

                                2. re: noonietunes

                                  WholeFoods (LJ) has Cento San Marzano tomatoes from time to time.

                                  1. re: noonietunes

                                    Wow, talk about restoring an old thread. My grandma's favorite brand of tomatoes was Pastene, which is a pretty common supermarket brand on the East Coast, but virtually nonexistent out here. The irony, of course, is that the tomatoes Pastene uses are grown here in California. My parents like Cento quite a bit. For my money though, I like the bottled "passata rustica" tomatoes you can find at Mona Lisa for sauces. Now, for pizza (Sicilian style with the sauce on top, of course), I have a well-hidden supply of Pastene tomatoes.

                                    1. re: noonietunes

                                      Cento is also sold at Ralph's (at least the one in LJ). Unfortunately nearly all the ones you can find (including Cento) are packed in tomato paste rather than juice, which means they come with more of a cooked tomato flavor rather than just the pure raw tomato. This has to do with arcane import laws about cooked vs raw food.

                                      It's a bit disappointing, since at $5 a can, you'd expect something a little higher quality.

                                      1. re: mayache

                                        The sauce the Centos are packed in though are exactly what my marinara needed to perfect it. Regular canned tomatoes packed in water make a marinara sauce too thin, requiring the addition of paste or tomato sauce. They're an italian sauce canned tomato. If you are going for just tomatoes to add texture without too much "cooked" tomato base flavor in whatever you are making, "regular" canned tomatoes do fine. That said I would tend to never use San Marzanos for a non-italian dish.

                                    2. Suzie's Farm grows San Marzano breed tomatoes in San Diego. The season typically starts at the end of June Gloom.

                                      1 Reply