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Sep 28, 2009 11:09 AM

Source for great locally grown San Marzano tomatoes

I am daunted by the excessive prices that Whole Foods (and similar stores) charge for their canned San Marzano tomatoes.

The imported cans of DOP are great, but I am looking around for advice on who has been to a farmers market or smaller store that sells some of the fresh California grown San Marzano style italian plum tomatoes.

They are great for pizza sauce, soup, pasta sauce etc... and I am sure that somebody must have come across a good venue for inexpensively buying them?

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  1. Monterey Market in Berkely has them. I paid, I think, $28 for a crate a month ago. They're going out of season, though, and the batch they had last week was getting on in ripeness.

    1 Reply
    1. Mariquita Farms is doing two more deliveries of their Ladybug buying club, where they sell San Marzanos and just a couple other products by the case. The pick-up locations are SF and Palo Alto. Its $28 for a 20-lb box of tomatoes--for me, this yielded six quarts of pureed tomatoes for the freezer, a quart of juice, a quart of marinara and two pounds of oven-roasted tomatoes.

      I haven't seen any San Marzanos at Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market in about two weeks; I have not been to any of the local farmers markets in that time, so I can't say whether any San Marzanos are available elsewhere.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Leadbelly

        Berkeley Bowl West has had them for at least the past month; I haven't been for a week but they definitely had them last weekend, they were Riverdog Farms tomatoes.

        1. re: JasmineG

          Oh, thanks for the correction! I must have scanned right over them...

          1. re: Leadbelly

            They're in the organic section at BB West, in a bin on the far left along the back. Great price, too -- I think $1.89 a pound.

            1. re: JasmineG

              Every single Riverdog tomato I have bought from Berkeley Bowl has been horrible ... horrible. BB has never known how to handle tomatoes correctly and that continues to this day.

              1. re: rworange

                These were pretty good -- maybe BBWest handles them better?

          2. re: JasmineG

            Riverdog will sell much of their product by the case if you don't mind hitting a CSA drop to get it.

          3. re: Leadbelly

            Mariquita had two u-pick events last week. All their tomatoes, including San Marzanos, were fifty cents a pound. I picked up 130#s and canned and gazpachoed them. And gave a bunch away. It's nice being the Midas of tomatoes when being a big shot comes so cheap. I don't think they have any more planned events but you might call and ask. Their San Marzano field is still FULL of tomatoes.

            If you can convince them to do a u-pick, please post back. Especially if it's on a weekday.

            Picking that many tomatoes is hard work. But it also gives you an appreciation about why great tomatoes cost so much. And it's fun to figure out which tomatoes you want. They have a lot of varieties. The plants themselves are about two feet tall and each has dozens of tomatoes. Part of the fun is just trying to comprehend how that can happen -- how can such a small plant support so many tomatoes? I totally don't get it.

            They also have beets. The beets were great but the greens were amazing. You bite into them and get the usual complex beet green flavors and then get a big rush of saltiness. Great for beet pot likkor.

            Hopefully, you can get them to do one more u-pick. If not, wait till next year and hit them up. It's totally worth it.

          4. The Berkeley Bowl has been carrying top-notch San Marzanos from Ed George's Peach Farm in Winters. Ed George told me they'd be picking San Marzanos for another few weeks, and that he'd sell me as much as I wanted at the El Cerrito Farmers Market. You can't beat the price: $20 for a box of 20 to 24 pounds. Call him to order at 530-795-0360, or just go to the market on a Tuesday or Saturday.

            2 Replies
            1. re: heidipie

              Thanks everyone, those are some great tips!

              1. re: heidipie

                Follow-up: last Tuesday I bought two cases of tomatoes from the Peach Farm stand at the EC farmers market. The problem was that they weren't picked ripe. A full week later and I've only been able to can half the tomatoes--the rest still have yellow shoulders. I think they were trying to clear their fields before the rain.

              2. Not exactly what you asked but I'm a big fan of Wild Boar tomato seller. I find them at the Oakland Grand/Lake farmer's market on Saturday's. I'm not sure they would have offiicial San Marzano's but maybe they could point you to something comparable. They always have a bruised section that sells for $1/lb. I bought 10 lbs this past weekend and made some wonderful pasta sauce.

                1. If you ever want to grow San Marzanos for a really great treat go to. and buy the seeds Just a fyi....