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Marchini hangs hat on Italian ‘heirloom’ sauce tomato

Going back to its roots in Italy, J. Marchini Farms, which is headquartered in Le Grand, CA, is now marketing an heirloom plum tomato variety as a sauce tomato for both the retail and foodservice trades. The company offers the product in fresh form for about six weeks in late summer and also freezes the whole tomatoes for distribution throughout the year.

“My grandfather Joe Marchini found it from a seed purveyor about four years ago,” said Marc Marchini, who is involved in selling the unique item. “We grew 10 acres last year and decided to freeze some of our production. Tomatoes freeze very well.”

During the fresh season, which lasts from about August 15 until the end of summer, the tomatoes are sold in a two-pound clamshell that is packed in a 25-pound carton. The frozen product is packaged in a six-and-a-half-pound bag and sold year round.

Mr. Marchini said it is a great-tasting product with low acid and high sugar. “There is a grape tomato market and a slicer market, but no one was selling sauce tomatoes. People use regular tomatoes to make sauce, and they just don’t work that well. This is a fantastic product.”

He explained that the variety comes from the San Marzano region in Italy.

In Italy, which is where Marc’s great grandfather Florindo came from when he moved to the San Joaquin Valley in the 1920s, the San Marzano tomato is used for the well-known Neapolitan Pizza. In fact, Marc Marchini said that an authentic Neapolitan Pizza must be made with the San Marzano tomato.

J. Marchini has been selling the fresh “Heirloom Plum Sauce Tomato,” which is labeled as such, through distributors and wholesalers. The foodservice trade has been the top buyer of the frozen pack, though some retailers are also carrying it.

“We already are selling the frozen tomatoes year round, and we’d like to make the fresh deal year round as well — moving around to the various growing districts,” he said.

But Marc Marchini said that the company is developing sales slowly to make sure that they take good care of their current accounts.

He said that when his grandfather came to the United States, he began his farming business by growing tomatoes, but eventually he started growing another Italian favorite: radicchio.

“We are the largest grower of radicchio in the country,” Mr. Marchini said.

J. Marchini Farms, with operations in Salinas, CA, the San Joaquin Valley and Mexico, is a year-round grower-shipper-packer-marketer of radicchio. While the firm has grown tomatoes for many of its 80-plus years in business, it served as a grower-packer and did not market its own fruit for most of that time.

Joe Marchini is the president of the firm, while his son Jeff is vice president and grandsons Marc and Nic are involved in sales and production respectively. Jenny McAfee is the firm’s vice president of sales.