Originally from South America, the tomato was brought to Europe in the 16th Century by the Spanish, not as an edible vegetable, but as a ornamental curiosity.
In the 1700s its use in gastronomy was experimented, and in Sicily the population began to use it sliced and then sun dried to obtain a concentrated sauce known as the “black conserve” which was stored as loaves.
In 1867 Carlo Rognoni began his career as a pioneer of tomato farming and of the making of hardened loaves of concentrate paste. In the second decade of the 1900s, about seventy active processing plants were already active in the territory of Parma. But the most important historical period for the diffusion of the product on the international market was between the 1920s and the 1950s. Thanks to the support of the Experimental Station for Conserve, created in 1922 and directed from the start by Francesco Emanuele (1896-1976), Parma reached the top of all three sectors of the tomato industry – farming production, processing, and food technology. This is a prime position which Parma still holds today.
The fruit of tomato is made of three parts: the external rind called epicarp, the most consistent part called mesocarp, which is fleshy and rich in juices, with a sweet-acid taste, and the endocarp, which is the most internal part.
The ability of tomato plant to mutate has made it possible to develop and experiment numerous new varieties with relative ease, and this contributed to its success and its ample diffusion. In the glass case display, several varieties are reproduced, from the primitive Tomatillo to the Andes’ Horned Tomato, the progenitor of Perini (pear shaped) Tomato.
The tomato belongs to the family of Solanacee plants, to lycopersicon genre and to the esculentum species.
In our climate, it is an annual plant, while in the climate of origin it is a perennial. The fruit is particularly rich in vitamins and it also contains potassium, chloride, phosphor, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, sodium and iron. It is also the principal source of Lycopene, a compost of hydrogen and carbon belonging to the group of carotenoid which is present in human plasma and has a strong antioxidant and cancer preventing power.
The wild tomato, or Solanum racemigerum, is originally from western South America. Brought to central America, it was cultivated by the Mayan, who developed the fruit in its largest shape which we know today. Adopted by the Aztecs in turn, they cultivated it in the southern regions of Mexico. It was there that Hernàn Cortés first saw it between 1519 and 1521 during the occupation of the region. From Mexico, the seeds were brought to Spain by the returning colonists and missionaries, who borrowed the term tomatl used by natives and called the new fruit tomate. Dictionaries first established the presence of the word tomate in the Spanish language around the year 1532. But in reality the tomate brought from America were two different plants.
Tomato and Tomatillo
The Aztec word tomatl generally defined something roundish and bubbly. According to the different prefix it indicated tomato (xi-tomatl) or tomatillo (mil-tomatl), a small round fruit, also belonging to Solanacees, but to a different genus (Physalis ixocarpa).
Europeans picked up on only the generic term, creating a bit of confusion when both plants – tomato and tomatillo – arrived from overseas.
The tomatillo is characterized by a green casing which dries and breaks when the inner fruit is mature. It is pale green tending to yellow in color, and was more popular than tomato among Aztecs. It grew among the corn fields and it was used in sauces containing red pepper – also called chili – or to make the famous Mexican green sauce.
Botanical studies of the second half of 1500 testify that tomato and tomatillo were regularly confused with each other.
New foods from the new world
The encounter between the old and new world was the occasion for one of the most extraordinary exchanges in the history of human nutrition. Together with the tomato, many previously unknown foods such as corn, hot pepper and other varieties of peppers, manioc, beans, peanuts, potato and sweet potato also known as batata, some varieties of squash, sunflower, pineapple and other tropical fruit (avocado and papaya), cocoa, vanilla, turkey and tobacco arrived in Europe.
To the American continent were brought rice, wheat, barley, rye, oats, lentils, chickpeas, beans, chards, artichokes, spinach, carrots, melons, pomegranates, citrus fruit, peaches, cherries, grapes, olives, coffee and sugar cane. The Europeans, who wished to maintain in the new continent the lifestyle that they were used to, brought with them numerous animals – horses, donkeys, mules, cows, swine, goats, sheep and courtyard birds which were unknown in America up to that point.
The tomato appeared in Europe in the first half of 1500s, but it did not find immediate popularity in Spain. One hypothesis is that the first varieties brought to Europe contained solanine in such high quantities as to make them indigestible. That is why it was used as an ornamental plant, or as a medicinal plant for study purposes in botanical gardens and therefore had a very limited diffusion. Only subsequent variety selections rendered the tomato completely edible.
Italy was the first European country after Spain to know tomato, due to the close relationships between the Bourbons and the ruling Italian families of the time, and to Spanish domains on the territory.
A linguistic analyses of the terms used for the new species can help us hypothetically reconstruct the paths of its geographical diffusion. Sicily, where the term Pummaruri is used, which derives from the French Pomme d’amour, was most likely the first Italian region to know the new plant, thanks to direct Spanish influence on the island; from this region come the most ancient Italian recipes based on tomato, especially sauces and dry conserve. In Sardinia, a Spanish possession until 1720, and Northern Italy, the term Tomate, derived from Spanish language, was used in various spellings. The Central and Southern parts of Italy used the word Pomo d’oro – modified in Pommarola in Naples – a term deriving from classical literature and from the color of the first fruits which arrived there.
Official documented history of tomato in Italy began on October 31st, 1548 in Pisa, when Cosimo de’ Medici received from the Florentine farm of Torre del Gallo a basket of tomatoes born from seeds donated to his wife Elena of Toledo, by her father, who was the Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.
From Sardinia, the tomato probably reached Genoa spreading throughout Liguria region thanks to favorable climate, and from there to Piacenza and then Parma, which at the time was the capital of the Duchy, and later to Milan, to Novara and to Turin.
The diffusion of tomato in our country was very slow, though. The initial diffidence towards the new fruit, which did not resemble anything known up to that time, squelched its potential as a food product for a long time. Gastronomic experimentation began only in the 1700s, and in the 1800s this led to the large diffusion which we know today.
In the second half of the 1800s the tomato went from being farmed in orchards to being farmed in open fields for industrial production. The small plants, coming directly from seeds, were farmed in parallel rows supported by poles. This system, called the “genoan style”, remained in use up to the introduction of mechanical methods in the 1970s.
The self supporting varieties appeared only after World War II and were imported from the United States. They made it possible to design automatic harvesting systems.
A summary of the tomato’s history and of farming techniques is narrated in the video, which is also available in English. Simply ask the ticketing office to switch the video language.
The simplest method used to preserve tomatoes, first documented in Sicily in 1868, was to sun dry the entire plant, which was harvested before complete ripening, The tomatoes kept their sugar content in the following months and were available to use in winter. In time it became also common practice to grind the tomatoes, and boil them for a long time without the seeds and peels, in order to obtain a dense and dark sauce, which then was sun dried. This was called “black conserve” and was rolled up in loaves and wrapped in oiled paper to protect it over time.
The first varieties of tomatoes which were brought to Parma from sea ports through Piacenza were the Riccio of Niece and the Genoan Ribbed, and from these were derived two varieties: the Riccio or Quarantino Parmigiano, used mostly for everyday cooking, and the Ladino of Panocchia, chosen by Carlo Rognoni to produce tomato conserve.
The first company to process tomato in the Parma area was formed by a group of local farmers in 1874 and was called the “Anonymous Society of Farmers for the Preparation of Tomato Conserve”. As early as the 1880s they exported loaves of black conserve to Great Britain and Argentina.
In the meantime, the discoveries of the Frenchman Appert made it possible to devise modern methods of processing and canning. At first glass jars were used and later cans made of tin plate were employed. At the beginning of the 1900s boilers and extractors came into use: these were first built in France and later spread everywhere thanks to local mechanical industries, and made it possible to use the vacuum method. This method is more convenient and safe, and with it lighter conserves, known as double and triple, can be obtained, which are easier to can and sell.
Up to the mid 1800s the agricultural world of the Parma area was still somewhat behind the times, but some signs of rebirth could already be noticed, which in the first years of the new century became very impressive. School and government institutions together with private associations began to set up the financial and technical resources which would start the “agricultural and industrial revolution” of the Parma area.
Carlo Rognoni and the Agrarian Commitee
The Agrarian Commitee of Parma was born on July 17 1867 and its president from the start was professor Carlo Rognoni (1829-1904), originarily from Vigatto. He had a degree in chemistry ,and had been Professor of Agriculture at the Techincal Institute since 1870. The Agrarian Committee, with the support of the Cassa di Risparmio Bank, of which Rognoni was a chairman, promoted the large scale purchase of chemical fertilizers and promoted their diffusion through practical demonstrations. It was due to Rognoni’s intuition that tomato farming was brought from backyard orchards into open fields. He himself experimented and studied on his farm called the Mamiana of Panocchia, the Ladinodi Panocchia variety, which turned out to be the most suitable variety for farming. He introduced this variety in the biennial rotation of crops together with wheat and corn. His methods were so effective as to be recognized and used, with small adaptations, at the European level.
Cornelio Guerci, Antonio Bizzozero and the Itinerate Course of Agriculture
The initiative of establishing an Itinerate Course of Agriculture in Parma was taken on by the Cassa di Risparmio (the Savings Bank) of Parma. In September of 1892, the honorable engineer Cornelio Guerci (1857-1949), a chairman of the Technical Institute and an expert farmer and vineyard owner in Cascinapiano of Langhirano, brought the project to life with the technical support of Professor Antonio Bizzozero (1857-1934), a young agronomist from Traviso. The conferences held in the rural communities by the Itinerate Course were preceded by announcements to local authorities and by putting up posters in public places.
The first tomato conserves were produced by housewives boiling tomatoes grown in the orchard in regular pots. The sauce was stirred using a wooden spoon and the product was filtered while still in a very liquid state using a sieve. Later on, with the help of variously shaped small appliances which are shown here in the museum, the seeds and peels were eliminated. The home made conserve was then placed into glass jars which were closed with cork lids after pouring a little oil on the top surface.
The conserve had to be used within a short time, unless the “bain marie” boiling method was employed, as devised by Frenchman Appert. This made it possible to store the conserve for longer periods of time.
Rognoni began to manufacture loaves of hard conserve, together with Ludovico Pagani (1866-1939) and Brandino Vignali (1868-1944), also of Panocchia. To make the conserve, all that was needed was a copper pot, an open fire, or fogòn, which can be seen in the exhibit here, and some wooden boards. The first conserve factories developed around Rognoni’s house and later spread throughout the provinces of Parma and Piacenza.
The model represents a typical tomato conserve processing line in use up to the 1950s. The first phase of processing is washing and hand picking to eliminate the under ripe tomatoes and waste product on a conveyer belt. Next there is a grinder, made of two crossing star shaped rollers which crush the tomatoes. Through an opening below, the product falls into the seed separator, which extracts seeds from the tomatoes without breaking them to avoid dispersing their oil content into the pulp.
The machine consists of a cochlea moving into a partly perforated steel cylinder. The liquid part and the seeds pass through the holes and fall into a seed drier below, where juice is separated from seeds. The juice is then added to the pulp, which is ground into small pieces by the grinder. The blanching machine warms up the ground pulp to a temperature of 80-85° by passing the product through a series of steam heated pipes in order to ease the separation of the peel. The grinder, the refiner and the super refiner machines, using increasingly finer filters, separate all of the peel and the coarse parts. The liquid and homogeneous pulp obtained this way enters the boiler, where vacuum concentrating takes place. The boule or boiler transforms up to 1800 liters of tomato pulp coming from the refiner into double or triple concentrate paste, using the principle that in a vacuum, a liquid boils at a temperature lower than 100° and yields a better quality product. The concentrated paste comes out of the boilers at a temperature of 60-65° and is brought to the filling line through pumps. Then, its temperature is raised to 82-86° by a heated canning machine equipped with a reservoir with a stirrer which keeps the product moving. A piston operated dosing device transfers the correct quantity of the product into cans, which later are conveyed on a belt to the sealing machine to be closed.
The sealing machine, which can be either manually operated or mechanized, applies a metal lid to the filled cans and seals them using a system of rotating rollers which folds and joins together the metal edges of the lid and the can. The conserve is heated so that when it later cools down a light vacuum is created. This is important for correct storage of the product. At the end of the process, the cans are sterilized in an autoclave or boiling water sterilizer. An additional passage through cold water makes it possible to cool the product.
In the center of the hall, the machines of the conserve production line are exhibited. Most of the machines come from the factory belonging to parmesan Zaccaria Rossi of Pieve located in Settimo, Florence, and were made by local parmesan mechanical industries. In the exhibit there is a 1950 Vettori & Manghi grinder; a 1955 Ghizzoni blancher; a Luciani 1945 sifter; a Boule made by Checchin & Quaquarini of Milan in 1920 in use at Emiliana Conserves of Busseto; a Negro peel press from 1950; a vertical piston pump from 1960; a Migliavacca filling machine from 1946; a manual pump from 1930 in use at Pezziol of Parma; a 1935 Kircheis Aue sealing machine used at Fratelli Mutti of Basilicanova; a 1930 Roche sealing machine; a 1970 Comet and a 1970 Perogalli sealing machine;
The important modifications introduced in farming during the last decades of the 1800s caused a considerable change in the aspect of the agrarian landscape, especially in the flatland areas and at the foot of the hills. The building complex of the farm, which hosted the families of farmers, stables for animals, facilities for natural fertilizers, storage for animal feed, and the new farming machines, in many cases was enlarged to include a factory furnace and chimney. This was taller and more impressive than the chimneys of the dairy factories, and gave a new aspect to the landscape, as can be noticed, for example, in the 1925 paintings by Daniele de Strobel for the Chamber of Commerce, which are now at the Cariparma-Crédit Agricole building. The chimneys of conserve factories towered over the countryside and became the new reference points on the horizon of the new farming community, just like the church steeples had been earlier.
According to Ministerial data, in 1890 in the province of Parma there were 16 active factories which possessed a total 35 direct heat boilers and employed 76 workers, of which 59 were men and 17 were women, and produced an average of 53,500 kilograms of black conserve loaves in a year.
In 1912, after thirty years of development, the Parma area conserve industry had become a real economic giant, as shown by the data of the Chamber of Commerce. There were 61 plants, owned by 56 individual entrepreneurs or societies, which on the average processed 150 million kilograms of tomato through 229 vacuum systems. The farmers were paid 7 Lire per 100 kilograms of tomatoes – the highest price recorded in the country – dealing out a total of 12 million Lire into the countryside. In 1990 there were 14 processing plants producing 5,5 million finished products and in 2009 there were 9 plants producing over 1 billion kilograms of product.
The graph shown in the panel shows the trend of this production development and the progressive concentration of the companies.
In the multimedia panel there is data from all of the documented conserve industries, both former and contemporary ones. Touching the surface with your hand in any place on the map, a set of plants in each area can be visualized.
Tomatoes were usually hand picked by women in the fields. They passed through the rows, picked the ripe ones and placed them in a wicker basket or in a typical minela, a box with handles. They kept this on their arm, and when they got to the road at the end of a row, they delicately poured the contents into wooden boxes which were then loaded by the men into carts pulled by oxen and were brought to the factories.
The wooden boxes used until the 1930’s and until their final disappearance in the 1950s, were the same old ones used to harvest lambrusco vines, all tarnished by the black grapes. They were rather large and could contain up to 40 kilograms of tomato, and therefore in time smaller wooden boxes were used which could hold up to 25 kilograms. To store the finished product, barrels were used instead. These were formed by strips held together by iron circles, like the ones used for wine. They could hold about 100 kilograms of conserve. The barrels could be sold directly to large consumers like military or college dining facilities, for example, or could be sold to other conserve industries. Or they could be stored at the factory to be processed at a later time, in winter, to suit the market request.
Here you can see wooden crates and barrels on display.
The history of the tin can
The word “tin” describes a sheet of iron on top of which a light layer of tin is applied. If the application happens by electrolyses, it is called tinned band. The procedure makes it possible to obtain containers which feature the strength of iron and the resistance to corroding agents of tin. In recent times, technological development has made possible the low cost production of aluminum laminate and stainless steel sheets, and has brought about a reduction of the use of tin cans in food conserve industries, both because of tin’s higher costs and for its lower compatibility with some foods. In many other practical applications, tin has been replaced by plastic materials. The tinned band began to be worked between the end of 1200 and the beginning of 1300s in Wunsiedel, a town in High Franconia in Germany. Its popularity in packaging bloomed between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of 1800s. The Englishman Peter Durand deposited UK Patent design 3.372 on August 25, 1810. The Englishmen Bryan Donkin and his associate John Hall bought the patent from Durand in 1812, and by applying the methods developed by Nicolas Appert, began to produce canned foods which were successfully presented to the Duke of Wellington in 1813. Used by the Army, the Navy and the first explorers, the cans, or “tin cans” as they are still called today, were sold in stores starting in 1830. In Italy, Francesco Cirio and Pietro Sada were the first ones to use tin band cans imported from abroad, first for the package vegetables in 1856 and then for meat in 1881. The first Italian manufacturer of cans made of tin band was Luigi Origòni, who on February 4th, 1890, began his activity at the Bovisa factory of Milan.
The containers for conserve
Initially tomato conserve was packaged in bottles or, in the case of the black conserve, they were shaped into small loaves and then wrapped in oiled paper, but later they found their ideal packaging in tin cans. Cylindrical cans made of tin band were used for selling product, and were lithographed with the trademark symbols and writings requested by the manufacturer. The cans were furnished by specialized national industries, but soon smaller local industries became suppliers as well. Between the World Wars I and II, thanks to the interest of Pezziol, another tinned band cans manufacturing industry was born in Parma. This was the S.C.E.D.E.P. company. The conserve factories at the foot of the hills instead could easily get their can supply from a company founded in Sala Baganza by Giuseppe Vitali of Bologna, who in 1918 sold the company to Metalgraf, of Milan, a company which had other similar plants in Italy. Later, in 1931, this became the Italian Society for Metal Containers and Similar Products or S.I.R.M.A, and opened a plant on Via Golese in Parma. In 1983 tetrapack, which had been used for milk up to then, started to be used also to package tomato puree and pulp.
The Pezziol Collection of Tin Cans
The noteworthy collection of 5 kilograms tin cans exhibited in the museum shows a sample of packaging by companies active in the Parma area, in Emilia and in Italy in the year 1938 and was born because of a judicial trial about the color used by the Pezziol company – founded in Padua in 1849 but also active in Parma since 1902. Differently from many other companies which were characterized by the use of the color green or red, Pezziol adopted from its very beginning a white design for its line of triple tomato concentrate paste, which accordingly was called the “White Brand”.
When the Amilcare Davoli & Sons Company of Rivergaro in the province of Piacenza started to sell the “Sant’Antonio” brand in a white can, Pezziol sued the competitor in a legal trial. The first degree trial in Piacenza ended with the absolution of the Davoly Company. The second Degree trial was held at the Court of Appeal of Bologna. Pezziol, in order to support its cause, bought over 1100 different cans of conserve which were exhibited as evidence in the trial case. The uniqueness of the color white on the national territory was an exclusive characteristic of the Pezziol brand. The Court Chancellor received 105 samples of cans, all marked and sealed with the date of June 1st 1938. The judge, faced with such evidence, accepted Pezziol’s petition and still today this is the only company who can use white cans. The collection remained in custody of the tribunal to be shown as evidence on request of the parts until recently, and now it represents an exceptional historical document since all of the brands collected, differently than what happens in other private collections, are absolutely contemporary with each other and show us a view of the packaging for tomato extract in a precise moment of Italian history.
The second life of tin cans
Once the product was consumed, in poor farming Italian communities tomato conserve tin cans could have a second life. They could be used as simple open containers for seeds, hardware, small objects, grease or varnishes, or it could become a bucket or a rosemary plant pot. It could be used to carry plants before transplanting them into a garden, or a useful guard to protect the tops of fences, and when it was cut up, it could transform into laminated sheets which could replace broken shingles on roofs, or to reinforce door corners, to strengthen furniture and barrels, or to make tools and instruments – from funnels used in wine making, to watering cans, to curtains placed on front doors to keep insects out, to small toy trains and cars for the children.
At the beginning of the 1900s, when the first tomato extract cans arrived on the shelves of grocery stores, the communication and promotion systems for products were extremely limited. Analphabetism, especially among house wives, was still very frequent and so it was necessary to entrust the recognition of one’s own trade mark to a graphic symbol or a drawing rather than to a written name. Moreover, the cans were all of the same shape and dimensions, mostly of about 200 grams, half a kilo, and one kilo, and for the most part they used the same colors, predominantly red, green and gold. The simple but very effective idea was to connect the tomato extract to an image which could be easily remembered like an animal or a famous character, historical event or a very common object. In the panel, the graphical elements used mostly by the Parma area manufacturing industries are shown grouped in different types.
The Englishman Peter Durand was the inventor of the tin metal can suitable for food storage in 1810.
He devised a method to seal the contents, but did not concern himself with a method to open the cans. Only in 1855 was a specific tool to easily open tin band cans devised by Englishman Robert Yates. The can opener was destined to take on a great variety of different shapes and dimensions up until our days. The can opener is actually a lever, even though it has a great variety of forms, and it uses mechanisms which can basically be traced back to three fundamental principles: a pressure cut done with a fixed blade, usually held by a single handle; the vertical rotating cut made on the lid, mostly with two handles; the horizontal cut on the external border of the can under the lid, mostly with two handles.
A selection of tools is shown in the glass case. They date between 1869 and 1960 and belong for the most part to the Carlo Grandi collection, the most important Italian collector of can openers from Europe and America, both for domestic and professional use. The various models are shown with their patent designs, if they are available, and instructions or original packaging. The year indication refers to the date on which the patent was deposited, and must be considered an indicative data. Various models had very long production periods.
At this point of the museum exhibit, a 1954 Fiat Topolino with an advertising tube of the Triple Concentrate Tomato extract can be seen. After World War II, Italy was a country which needed to be rebuilt and it was very important, before the mass diffusion of refrigerators, to be able to store for a long time the sparse food supplies which were available. Tomato conserve, once the can was opened, even though it could be protected by spreading a thin layer of oil, risked to develop bacteria and mold and to spoil. This is why the idea to use tubes as containers for conserve was born.
After an experimental launch, in April of 1951 the Mutti brothers launched on the Italian market the Triple Tomato Concentrate in its innovative packaging. The fortunate idea to use a thimble made of plastic to close the tip of the tube, which housewives could reuse in their sewing work contributed to reinforce the popularity and diffusion of the product. In a short time, the Mutti concentrate paste, became known as the “thimble tube”.
On the wall behind the Topolino car there is a reproduction of the bronze plaque made in 1948 by Pietro Carnerini for the Manzini mechanical industries. The bronze plaque, which once was located at the entrance of the Manzini factory right after the bust of its founder Tito, today can be found at the back of the Traversetolo Town Hall, birth place of Camerini. It is dominated by the powerful figures of Agriculture in the center, of Commerce to the left, and of Industry to the right. The relief on the left represents the inside of the Manzini factory during the production of machinery for the food industry. The relief on the right shows the inside of a conserve factory in full activity, with boilers and machinery in action. The composition has clear Liberty style references and celebrates in elegant tones man’s industry and farming culture, characteristic of the Parma area.
Because of the nature of the raw product, the tomato conserve industry was the first one in history to be equipped with a chemical analyses lab to allow quality control during all of the phases of processing. Thanks to the support of the Experimental Station of Food Conserves, in the 1930s efficient methods of control were devised to guarantee quality levels of product and to promote the Parma area product on the national and international markets. The control lab of a conserve factory of medium size in the years immediately after the war was furnished with a central lab table covered in ceramic tiles, with water and gas spigots, a wall workbench with an aspirating vent, a glass cabinet, a shelf for chemical substances, a marble surface, a sink, a desk and many tools which can be seen here. The routine analyses included identifying color, residue, sugar and acidity content, which had set parameters with minimum and maximum levels according to law.
The era of industrial development coincides with the golden era of Italian Poster advertising art. This was characterized by talented editors such as Ricordi of Milan, or Chappuis of Bologna, for which many famous artists like Boccasile, Cappiello, Dudovich, Mauzan, and Carboni all worked.
Nonetheless, the conserve market did not have large funds to finance large advertising campaigns. The message was entrusted to a few posters or signs made of lithographed tin band placed in store windows, or to postcards, and, in the case of the most important industries, to recipe books. The key character found in food conserve industry advertising is the chef, followed by female characters and then by gluttons and food connoisseurs. In some rare cases, a family sitting at the dinner table is portrayed. Patriotism and sentimentalism, folklore and ornamentation, realism and Hyper realism, abstract art and design all followed one another on the posters, the postcards and the advertising pages in time. All this is represented in the campaigns shown here or in the postcards which can be seen on the touch screen, starting from about 1910 and up to the famous 1984 ‘O così o Pomì’ by Emanuele Pirella.
In 1890, when the conserve industry took its first steps, in the province of Parma there were 17 foundries and mechanical industries, which employed a total of 147 workers, according to the estimate made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce.
On the basis of the requests and experiences of the conserve industry, these small workshops developed food processing machines and systems which at first were extremely simple, but in time became more and more complex.
In this way the tomato conserve industry fostered the development of technologies used for food processing in other sectors of the food industry. Now, a century later, processing machines for all kinds of vegetable conserves, as well as fruit, meat, fish, milk, are still being manufactured in Parma, often applying technologies devised for tomato processing to other fields.
In this section the history of the oldest and most important mechanical industries of Parma are narrated, while the evolution of the mechanical sector and its related technologies is highlighted in the video, which is also available in English. Please ask the reception desk to switch languages.
VERSIONE ITALIANA: Nella sezione sono raccontate le vicende delle più antiche ed illustri imprese meccaniche parmigiane, mentre il video ricostruisce l’evoluzione del comparto meccanico e delle tecnologie relative.
VERSIONE INGLESE: Nella sezione sono raccontate le vicende delle più antiche ed illustri imprese meccaniche parmigiane, mentre l’evoluzione del comparto meccanico e delle tecnologie relative è tratteggiato dal filmato, disponibile anche in lingua inglese (chiedere alla biglietteria per il cambio lingua).
The Parma area processing industry could count on a large number of investors who contributed to the growth of this sector with their work, their intelligence and perseverance. It is impossible to name them all, but we remember those pioneers who started the adventure of the Red Gold of Parma in the 19thCentury in various areas of the province, starting from Carlo Rognoni, mentioned earlier. In the panel, you will find their biographies.
The video describes the various jobs which were done in a factory in the words of Renato Azzali, who was head of production in various Parma plants, and by rare film footage. The various professions, such as factory representative, boiler man or fire man, weigher, picker, boule man, chemical analyst, stock keeper and shipper are represented, and particular attention is given to the role of women in the functioning of the various procedures.The video is available in English as well. Please ask the front desk to switch languages.
The Experimental Station was created on Viale Fratti following the Royal Decree number 1396 of July 2nd 1922, which reinforced a privilege that the city had earned ten years earlier. It came about thanks to the interest of the City, the Province, the Chamber of Commerce, the Union of Industrialists, the Savings Bank of the Agricultural Association and thanks to the commitments of engineer Romano Righi Riva, president of the chamber of Commerce, Antonio Bizzozzero, agrarian technician and director of the Itinerate School of Agriculture, and Parmesan politician Giuseppe Micheli.
It had the task of innovating and developing the sector and of “promoting through research, study, and analyses, the technical progress of the conserve industry and to oversee the training of the technical personnel working in the industry.”
Its first director, Francesco Emanuele, of Alcamo, Sicily, who had a degree from the Polytechnical School of Turin, after a trip to the United States, contributed to a serious and profound transformation of the sector. Innovations included genetic improvements made on the varieties of tomato species by promoting the creation of experimental fields to select seeds, as well as the innovation of production technologies to overcome the problem of the seeds and peel waste product, and the progressive improvement of the hygiene level in the entire processing system. This took place thanks to an intense activity of dissemination of scientific knowledge through the organization of specialized seminars, and through the magazine of the Experimental Station called “The Conserve Industry”, which was first published in 1925 and was appreciated at national and international levels.
The Experimental Station, which on May 31st 2010, became a Special Company of the Chamber of Commerce of Parma, is still today in charge of research and the study of innovation of technical and scientific methods, which then are divulged and made available to industries in both the food processing and the mechanical fields.
During the 1930s the Italian conserve industry went through an important phase of expansion. Nevertheless it was necessary to instill a deeper sense of trust in the product both in Italy and abroad, and at the same time to make it possible for manufacturers to upgrade to the best level of technical and scientific knowledge.
Therefore, the idea of an institution which would oversee these functions was developed, especially through the powerful tool of an annual trade show, which would be a privileged place of meeting for the exchange of the most advanced experiences both in technology and in food processing.
It would be the Experimental Station through the work of its director Francesco Emanuele to promote the idea of a trade show with the public administration, gaining the favor of the town of Parma, of the Province Administration, of the Council of Corporations or the glorious Chamber of Commerce, and of the Conserve industrials. Architect Gino Robuschi designed the first project in 1935. The project, which was certainly functional and rational, encountered the obstacle of lack of economic resources. So, after the first project was set aside, the Experimental Station started a fund search at the national level. Finally, on May 15th1939, a constituting act with its relative statute was issued. In 1939 the Town of Parma began to build a landmark building in neoclassical style in the northern area of the Ducal Park on a design by engineer Ugo Pescatori (1893-1972). This was later called Pavilion A. But the building was not finished and consigned to the institution until 1941.
The trade show was called “The First Conserve Exhibit” and after various postponements, was held from the 1st to the 20th of September, 1942, starting a tradition of shows held in the month of September.
In a trade show landscape dominated by great exhibits and by a large number of more or less generic market shows, the Parma exhibit proposed a new kind of event, based on specialized topics, and it became a trend setting example in the years after the war.
After the terrible days of war were over, in the middle of the 1950s the Exhibit could be rightly defined as a “spectacular international landscape of new developments and technical improvements” and it became the basis on which the Parma Fair was launched and the modern day CIBUS was created in 1985, which is now held in the new fairground headquarters which are located along Highway A1.
Tomato has entered into Italian and European culture to such an extent that it no longer satisfied with being just a vegetable, but it desires to dress up as many everyday life objects, form accessories for the kitchen, to clothing, books, music and so on, thus entering like a protagonist into the world of advertisement to promote goods… which are not even tomatoes. You will find a number of examples exhibited here. There is a screen in the exhibit showing various images of advertisement pages.
If we exclude the images appearing in botanical texts, the first artistic rendering known in Italy of the tomato is traceable in the frescoes by Francesco Salviati De’ Rossi which are found in the Hall of Hearings of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. They date back to 1543 to 1545. Since then, the tomato has entered the world of art, at first discretely in still life paintings of the 18th Century, and then starting from the 1900s, thanks to the complicity of the Liberty style taste, in a more a more evident form. This section shows an artistic history which covers five centuries.
The arrival of the tomato from the New World was not a “discovery” for gastronomy. If the new products had resembled something that was already used as food, they would have had more chance of be integrated quickly on the European tables. This was the case of corn, American beans, and peppers, which could be easily associated with foods which were already known. The tomato instead was not easily accepted, and its use as food was slow and problematic. We must remember that the entire tomato plant still today is toxic if eaten raw, with the exception of its fruit. Suspicions about the tomato became firmly established, limiting its impact. Its diffusion was not aided by the different climate either, Only by the end of the 1600s do we find mention of tomato in an Italian recipe book. The earliest citation is found in a recipe called “Scalco alla moderna” in a treatise by Antonio Latini, a nobleman of Marche region. The treatise was published in Naples in 1694. All the dishes in which tomato appears are called “Spanish style” and are condiments for boiled meat, or vegetable and meat stews. Throughout almost all of Southern Italy the tomato begins to be considered an ordinary food by farmers in the 1800s, while the conserve and the sauce begin to be slowly used in cooking. The famous recipe of Genoan style ravioli with tomato sauce by Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) is from 1840. We learn from the registers of the Duchess of Parma, Maria Luigia, that three years before her death eighty vases of conserve, weighing a total of 309 kilograms, were made for her use. Tomato sauce entered recipe books rather slowly and its larger diffusion did not happen until the industrial production age. The encounter between “Maccheroni and Pommarola” was a fortunate one, but still not decisive. Parallel to its use with pasta, tomato conquered pizza as well. In 1885 in the Naples area the farming of a scarlet red small oval shaped variety slightly squashed in its sides became popular. It grows in clusters and yields an incredible quantity, and it is called King Umberto variety.
While the tomato variety had been named after the king of Italy, to the queen was dedicated a kind of pizza. In 1889, while visiting Naples, the queen was offered a pizza garnished with King Umberto tomatoes by the famous pizza maker Raffaele Esposito. The Pizza Margherita was born, and with it the indissoluble marriage of Neapolitan pizza and the tomato.
Travelling northward in the Peninsula, we see that the tomato and conserves replaced lard as a condiment in basic foods like soup, rice, and cornmeal. In Tuscany the farmers used it sparingly in soups or on stale bread in the preparation of “pappa con pomodoro” or tomato soup. In 1931 the gastronomic guide of the Italian Touring Club stated that “the tomato conquered the right to citizenship in almost all of the Italian regions.” The conquest of the tomato extends everywhere, marking in red that which in the 1950s will be defined as the “Mediterranean Diet”.