Cherry Tomatoes of Santorini: Santorini is not only known for its scenic beauty but also for its one-of-a-kind tomatoes. The trademark tomato is tiny as it is appetizing. This kind of tomato is so small that most visitors find it hard to believe it comprises a tomato, not a cherry fruit. The quintessential tomato variety is unique and can only grow in Santorini.
It is unlikely to find similar tomatoes anywhere else across the world. What makes the Santorini tomatoes thrive is the rather meager rainfall, blustery weather, and soaring daytime temperature, all of which assist the growth of these tomatoes.
Agricultural scientists are still not certain whether the tomato got accustomed to Santorini's weather and soil conditions or if it belongs to an altogether unique species. The seed was first sown by a Christian monk named Fragkiskos in 1818 at the Capuchins Monastery. From then onwards, the tomato grew in abundance in Santorini. Organized cultivation of tomatoes on the island began in 1875. The best part about the Santorini tomato is that it has remained original to this day and any other variety has never been implanted.
The Santorini tomato reached its zenith during the 20th century. Nearly 20,000 acres of land were cultivated with the tomatoes, and at one point in time, there were as many as 14 processing factories in business.
The cultivation of tomatoes in Santorini got a shot in the arm by none other than Lenin. During the infamous Bolshevic Revolution, most of the churches of Russia were closed down. Russian priests were very fond of Visanto wine, which, incidentally, was also produced in Santorini. Since the demand for Vinsanto wine declined, it was the turn of Santorini tomatoes to draw the attention of the Russians.
Tomato cultivation flourished in Santorini till the decade of the 1950s but received a jolt during the massive earthquake of 1956. Then came another blow with the introduction of mass tourism to Santorini. Tourism as an industry was more lucrative than farming, so many farmers left their crofts behind and plunged headlong into the business of tourism. As a result, very few people were engaged in tomato cultivation. What used to be a routine everyday food item has today become a truly lavish food.
There are two distinct types of Santorini tomatoes. One is the authentic type and the other is the Kotiko variety. The Santorini Cherry Tomato grows in abundance in the favorable Santorini environment and has a characteristic flavor that derives from the volcanic soil.
Cultivators and consumers alike benefit immensely from the Santorini tomato. The luxuriant plants bear more fruit than the usual tomato plants. They are also known to ripen in a quick time in comparison to the widely-consumed variety. They are also infinitely tastier than the hybrid varieties that are available in the neighborhood vegetable markets.
In the local parlance, Santorini tomatoes are called tomataki. The best time to savor the tomatoes is during June, July, and August when they have fully ripened.
Tip: Don't skip trying the infamous tomatokeftedes (fried tomato balls) dish when in Santorini!
In Vlychada lies the Tomato museum, where visitors can learn about the traditional methods of tomato cultivation and admire unique processing machines and factory items.