“Il Piennolo” – The hanging tomatoes

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My brother came visit this week-end; he brought us a “piennolo” from his town of Portici, in the Napoli area. I thought it worth sharing.

In the past preserving the produce for the bad season was a major concern for people, one closely related to the very survival of the family. At times when we did not know how to create freezing cold, or how to synthesize chemical elements, the ingenious human being found ways to leverage natural elements. Actually in many cases the preservation technique created brand new tasteful products. Many are very popular: cheese, prosciutto, salami. Others are more local, like the “piennolo”.

The "Piennolo" - The hanging tomato from Vesuvius
The “Piennolo” – The hanging tomato from Vesuvius

It is the Neapolitan word for “pendulum”, meaning “the hanging”. Given the good climate of the area, people started hanging tomatoes arranged in a grape-like shape in a well ventilated place because in this way they would not rot. Actually over months the tomatoes would dry up a bit, and acquire a stronger taste with a sourish note. A great mate for the sweetness of pasta and parmesan.

The tomatoes grown on the volcanic soil of the Vesuvius area have a specially intense taste and are the preferred one for the piennolo. After a few centuries this is still produced today, and actually is a  “protected brand” (Denominazione di Origine Protetta”, DOP in brief) by the European Union. More details, of course in italian, at this site: http://www.agricoltura.regione.campania.it/tipici/piennolo.html

Looking forward to our next spaghetti dish with this tomato.

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