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Home of cherry tomato

- by Joe Mason

Santorini is world famous for its dramatic setting, live volcano and astonishing sunsets glimpsed from white cubed hill villages perched on the steep walls of the caldera. It is less well known for its cherry tomatoes, a product of Santorini's volcanic soil. But the Santorini tomato has become so renowned in the horticultural world it is about to get its third conference.

Experts arrive from around the world for Tomato Conference to be held on the holiday island of Santorini, on 8-9 July at the hall of the Union Cooperatives Theraic Products (Santo Wines).

This year's conference will celebrate the recognition of the 'Santorini cherry tomato' as a European PDO (protected designation of origin) product. 

This ensures that ensures that only tomatoes genuinely originating from Santorini can trade with the name.

For the cherry tomato was once the main agricultural product of Santorini with up to as many as 13 factories operating in the 1950's. But many switched to more profitable winemaking. 

The PDO designation has led to greater commercial demand and to more farmers on Santorini turning land over to tomato growing.

The Santorini cherry tomato gets its unique character and taste from a hard and thick skin and its high sugar content. 

Although called a 'cherry tomato', the Santorini fruit actually comes from a different species, and in two varieties. There is the fluted type and the 'kotiko' type which is more spherical.
Both varieties are smaller than ordinary tomatoes, but larger than normal cherry tomatoes.

The plants bear more fruit than ordinary tomatoes, ripen earlier, have a deep red colour and, possibly it most important attribute on a 'dry' island like Santorini, requires very little water. And, of course, its flavour – it tastes like a real tomato.

Not only that, the Santorini tomatoes have more vitamin C than normal tomatoes and contain the greatest amount of lycopene in any other fruit or vegetable.

 Lycopenes have become the focus of great attention because of their antioxidant qualities, a known preventative agent for certain types of cancers.

And there is even more good news for the tomato. The lycopenes are not lost in cooking and the Greek staple olive oil even aids its assimilation into humans – a double bonus for tasty and healthy meals.

Meanwhile, the conference organizers have invited scientists, researchers and food experts to share their knowledge on the Santorini tomato. And all this in a unique environment, the famous Greek holiday island of Santorini.