Are Italian tinned tomatoes better than the Australian-grown variety?

What makes Italian tinned tomatoes better than those from Australia?
What makes Italian tinned tomatoes better than those from Australia?  Photo: Shutterstock

Why are Italian tinned tomatoes better than Australian tomatoes? V. Roe

I think this is a matter of opinion that many would disagree with. But to test your theory I bought and opened four tins of tomatoes, two from Italy and two from Australia. I was looking for good mouth-feel, a balance of sweetness and acidity, a ripe tomato flavour and a clean finish.

The tomatoes from the two Italian tins were sweet and tasted like tomato juice. Both contained 60 per cent tomatoes and 40 per cent juice, in the form of a passata-like puree. One of the Italian tins contained cherry tomatoes in a thick sauce. They were delicious.

Brain Food by Richard Cornish.
Brain Food by Richard Cornish. Photo: Supplied

The first Australian tin was a supermarket brand containing 59 per cent tomatoes, puree, citric acid and calcium chloride. Citric acid is added to food to make it taste sharper. Calcium chloride is added for several reasons. It makes food taste saltier. It also inhibits the breakdown of pectin in the tomato cell walls, keeping the tomatoes firmer over time. Perhaps the calcium chloride was unnecessary as there were a few chunks of exceptionally firm, perhaps under-ripe tomatoes that refused to break down when I used the tomatoes in a pasta sauce.

The other Australian brand was Ardmona. It had 63 per cent tomato, juice, paste and thickener 1422. Thickener 1422 is acetylated di-starch adipate, starch treated with acid to create a thickener that withstands heating and agitation. The tin's contents had a slightly bitter aftertaste. Like the other Australian tomatoes, they seemed less delicious than the cheaper Italian tomatoes.

So based on my experience, I have to agree with you. Yet I buy tomatoes from growers whose faces appear on tins. I also bottle my own tomatoes and make passata from fresh tomatoes that I believe come from the same grower that supplies Ardmona. Mine always taste good. The flavour difference could be in the way the Australian processors can  their tomatoes.As an aside, this little exercise did not involve imported San Marzano tomatoes. These long, sturdy tomatoes were developed for canneries and are suited to southern Italy, where the long, warm summers allow the tomatoes to fully ripen. These tins are also about three times the price of Australian tomatoes.

Where can I get Green Signal Tea? P. Craig

You are, of course, referring to the loose-leaf tea that was originally made by Griffith Brothers Tea Company, founded in Melbourne in 1879. It is a delicious and quite powerfully flavoured smoky tea made with China Pekoe leaves. Over the years the tea has been very popular, particularly in Victoria. It used to be stocked by Coles and Woolworths (formerly Safeway) but has gradually been discontinued by the big boys and in recent years has been available only at independent retailers. It is presently labelled Robur Green Signal Tea, owned by the Indian company Tata Global Beverages based in Melbourne. They suggest to look for the tea at Supa IGAs. You can buy Green Signal Tea online at yourgrocer.com.au.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @Realbrainfood.

Brain Food by Richard Cornish is out now from MUP (RRP $19.99, eBook $11.99).