Tomataki Santorinis

Crop: Solanum lycopersicum L. (Tomato)

The landrace called ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is a small-sized tomato, historically associated with Santorini island (Region of South Aegean, Cyclades, Regional Unit of Thira Island, Greece), with a historical origin, distinct identity, specific adaptability to the dry conditions and the limey, alkaline soils of Santorini, genetic variability and closely connected with the traditional cultivation system. It is consumed as fresh (substituting cherry tomatoes), as sun-dried and as a paste (Traka-Mavrona et al. 2015).

The earliest reliable evidence of tomato cultivation in Santorini dates from the end of the 19th century (in the 1870s). The first official record of tomato growing in Santorini is contained in the first systematic report on the flora and agricultural production of Santorini drawn up shortly afterwards (Heldreich 1899). Tomato growing was introduced systematically into Santorini when sales of Santorini's wines in Russia collapsed following the October Revolution, with the result that income from wine-growing shrank and there arose the need to develop new, more profitable crops. Papamanolis (1932) describes how tomatoes were grown in all the areas where there was pumice, reporting that total production of tomato purée was around 1.300 tonnes in 1928. In 1933, Danezis wrote that the tomato industry was one of the two main sources of income in Santorini's agricultural sector. The tomato had already been adapted to the unique soil and climate conditions, the traditional cultivation practices had developed, the valuable traits and the comparative advantages of the product were revealed (Traka-Mavrona et al. 2015).

Nowadays, the landrace is sown from the 15th of February till the end of March. The harvest starts in May and finishes at the end of June. ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is very early in maturity with a development cycle of an average of 80 to 90 days, with a deep root system that facilitates direct sowing in the volcanic soil of the island, grown under arid conditions and it is resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses with the result that it maintains a highly reliable satisfactory yield under the dry farming system used on Santorini. The cultivation methods have been adapted to the area's particular soil and climate conditions.

‘Tomataki Santorinis’ has small leaves with a drooping attitude and yellow flowers. The diameter of its fruit is 3-5 cm, the shape is slightly flattened (polar diameter divided by equatorial diameter between 0,65 and 0,85) with weak to strong ribbing and a weight ranging from 15-27 g. It has a deep red colour and firm, not particularly moist flesh with a high seed content. The percentage of soluble solids vary from 7 to 10 °Βrix, while the concentration of soluble solids is lower in relation to total solids and ranges from 73 % to 87 % (13-27 % solid residue). In addition, it has higher levels of ascorbic acid, total soluble phenols and lycopene. At the same time, the fresh ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is characterised by high acidity (pΗ=4-4.5) which, in combination with the high concentration of carbohydrates, gives it a sweet, strongly acidic taste (Siomos et al. 2002, Traka-Mavrona et al. 2002). The composition of soluble solids contributes positively to both its nutritional qualities and its taste. Besides, the landrace ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ accumulates high ascorbic acid concentration in red ripe fruits (Mellidou et al. 2012) and consists a rich source of bioactive compounds with health-promoting properties (Kanellis and Manganaris 2013).

The landrace is discriminated from other Greek tomato landraces and commercial cultivars by morphological traits (Traka-Mavrona et al. 2015). The phylogenetic analysis confirmed that the landrace ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is genetically distant from other landraces and varieties and that it is a different and unique landrace with a distinctive identity. In parallel evaluation of selected genotypes on Santorini (using the traditional low-input system) and on the campus of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER in Thessaloniki (using a conventional high-input cultivation system) showed a strong environmental influence on the yield of ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ and its components. It is a product of the traditional low-input cultivation system.

Cultivation System: low-input conditions.

Geographical Information

Country: Greece

The geographical area where ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is traditionally cultivated comprises the islands of Thira (Santorini), Thirasia, Palea Kameni, Nea Kameni, Aspro (Aspronisi), Christiani and Askania (Region of South Aegean, Cyclades, Greece). These islands all have volcanic soil which makes up nearly all of Santorini consists of tertiary deposits of Thira soil, pumice and lava, poor in basic minerals, organic matter and soil water resources and a very specific microclimate, with particularly strong northerly winds (meltemia), long hours of sunshine throughout the year and very dry conditions (low annual rainfall), and high average of relative himidity 71%, an annual average temperature of 17,5 °C and virtually no frost. Thus, the plants are under conditions of water stress, and this, together with the alkaline soil, gives the product special characteristics. In addition, it should be noted that the strongly alkaline soil produces higher levels of sugar in the ripe tomato. The landrace is cultivated in small separated fields, for a total area of 20-30 hectares (http://www.minagric.gr/images/stories/docs/agrotis/POP-PGE/tomataki_santorinis_221012.pdf).


Farmer(s) description:

In 1928 the total production of tomato purée was around 1.300 tonnes in 1928 and the tomato industry was one of the two main sources of income in Santorini's agricultural sector. However, lately the landrace suffered from genetic erosion and was threatened by extinction from field cultivation because it was only cultivated by few farmers. It marginally survived at a small scale (on about 20-30 ha in the whole island), by a limited number of farmers, as part of their agricultural tradition.

Currently, however, the number of farmers still cultivating ‘Tomataki’ increased, possibly due to its addition in the European Catalogue of Protecting Designation of Origin products and the high prize of the product. The farmers are part of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives–Santowines and through the Cooperative they manage to process, promote their products and earn a better price.


Propagation system: Seed, self-pollination

Multiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:

S. lycopersicum is a predominantly self-pollinating plant. Each farmer collects his own seeds under slightly different agronomic conditions to be used for the following crop. More specifically, over the years growers have selected an early landrace for dry farming, which, to a great extent, overcomes the problem of the strong northerly winds and the lack of water resources, allowing the plant to develop fully, particularly on soils at sea level, during March, April and May. During these months, Santorini is most sheltered from the wind and receives a little rainfall, which provides a valuable source of water. By the procedure of the farmers selection for the next crop the important characteristics have been forged and spread over time. But as a consequence, various types of tomataki were cultivated, with two most widespread, ‘Afthentiki or Kathari’ meaning the authentic and ‘Paradosiaki or Kaisia’ meaning the traditional (Traka-Mavrona at al. 2015).

The Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER (Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resourses), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (School of Agriculture) and the Union of Santorini Cooperatives with the support of the Region of South Aegean studied the morphological and agronomical traits of the different types, evaluate them in in situ and ex situ conditions and concluded that ‘Authentiki’ is more adjusted in Santorinis’ conditions and gives more production, so they suggested that this line should be registered as a Protected Designation of Origin product (Traka-Mavrona et al. 2015).

Management plan existence:

The landrace management relies on farming activities in the area and is supervised by the agronomists of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives-Santowines.

Added Values

Market - existing and novel:

Undoubtedly, the small-size, anhydrous ‘Tomataki’ plays an important role in the gastronomic identity of the island. It can be consumed as fresh fruit or as processed product, such as tomato paste, juice, sauce, dip, sun-dried tomatoes and spread. The tomato paste, rich in lycopene and antioxidants is very famous for the bright red colour, the velvety texture and the natural sweet taste. The establishments and the modern equipment of the tomato process factory of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives give the facility of processing all the above products and place them on the local and national market. The last years, steps are made to increase the production and the promotion of the product to other European and non-European markets and the market for ‘Tomataki’ was expanded, while people from all over the world can by on-line all the products of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives e-shop (https://santowines.gr/en/). Most of the farmers sell the tomato production to the Union as a labelled PDO product but some times during the summer they sell it directly at local taverns as fresh fruit.

Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):

In 2013 ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ was registered into the European List of Protected Designation of Origin products (EC No: EL-PDO-0005-0888-26.08.2011) following the COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 510/2006 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2013:167:0022:0026:EN:PDF). The small yield per hectare on Santorini's dry soils (average yield around 5 tonnes and only in exceptional cases they reach 10 tonnes maximum per hectare compared with around 100 tonnes per hectare for outdoor tomatoes grown inland) means that ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ fetches a substantially higher price, which is a major incentive to fraud. The PDO label will protect the outstanding reputation of the product marketed.

The principal advantages of ‘Tomataki’ grown on Santorini are their higher sugar content and their higher level of total soluble solids. This specific quality characteristic is the result of the combined influence of the genetic material of the local variety, the traditional cultivation method used by the farmers, naturally, Santorini's and the surrounding islands’ soil and climate conditions and the adaptation of the plant to the environment of Santorini. The unique ecosystem that was created by the volcanic explosions on Santorini island, the volcanic ash, the barren, sandy soil, and the resilience of the plant to poor drainage lands, humidity created by the sea, drought, heavy winds and its adaptability to the volcanic soil of the island make ‘Tomataki’ a resource with an important agronomic and commercial value too. ‘Tomataki Santorinis’ is a striking example of a highly-priced local product of excellent quality whose production involves the sustainable use of unique natural resources.


A subsidy is given from the Ministry of Rural Development and Food the last years and it was increased in 2014 under a special scheme for the support of farmers who cultivate ‘Tomataki’ on the area of ‘Small Aegean Islands’ and specifically Santorini.

Currently, no scientific support is given to landrace maintainers but only technical support from the agronomists of the Cooperative. In the past, several initiatives have been carried out in an attempt to conserve and evaluate this landrace. Few years ago, in the framework of a national project the Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER (Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (School of Agriculture) and the Union of Santorini’s Cooperatives with the support of the Region of South Aegean aimed the evaluation of selected lines-types of small size tomatoes of Santorini Island such as ‘Authentiki or Kathari’ meaning the authentic and ‘Paradosiaki or Kaisia’ meaning the traditional and the intra-population selection. Both were subjected to a pedigree selection procedure, with the aim of a reasonable level of genetic uniformity guaranteeing the yield and quality stability of each line, and maintaining stable the fruit characteristics of the landrace (Koutsika-Sotiriou et al. 2016, Traka-Mavrona et al. 2015). Later on morpho-phenological and molecular characterisation activities were carried out by the Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Centre of Research and Technology Hellas and companies from the private sector in the framework of a Research and Innovation Action for the improvement of quality and health value of Greek tomato cultivars and the utilization of the local genetic resources of tomato (Krommydas et al. 2014, Krommydas et al. 2018).

The role of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives-SantoWines (https://santowines.gr/en/) is very important too. Today, it consists the largest organization of the island representing all the farmers and counting 1.200 active members. SantoWines is committed to safeguarding the local traditional cultivations, producing highest quality Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Santorini wines and products as well as promoting sustainable agriculture development. The last years the agricultural production, the cultivated land for ‘Araka’ and ‘Tomataki’, and the number of young members of the Union were increased (https://santowines.gr/en/).

Accessions of ‘Tomataki’ are kept, under long terms storage conditions in the genebank of the Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER and in the Union of Santorini’s Cooperatives-Santowines.

Provisions set by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, the high quality of the product, the increased interest of the consumers of the landrace value and a renewed interest in agriculture give hope of on-farm conservation in the next future.

Uncertain. To have access to the resource

 

Case study prepared by Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DEMETER, Greece.

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