The origin of…Tomato

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Miles Kington

Post 11 Tomato

The tomato, or Solanum lycopersicum, is not a vegetable, but a fruit and has its origins in Mexico. It belongs to the family Solanacea and is a close relative of the potato, paprika and eggplant. The Latin name means wolfpeach, from German werewolf myths. The tomato is related to the deadly nightshade plant (Atropa Belladonna), which, due to its hallucinogenic properties, was associated with witchcraft. German myths claimed that witches used those kinds of plants to summon werewolves.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which helps prevent heart disease and lowers the risk of certain cancers. Lycopene is an antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.

Tomatoes have been cultivated in Mesoamerica for centuries, first by the Mayans, who called them apples of Peru, and later the Aztecs. The Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was probably the first to bring the tomato to Europe in 1521, which were yellow varieties.
The first written remark about tomatoes was in 1544 by the hand of Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian botanist and physician. He spoke of a new type of eggplant that was red or yellow and he called them love apples, because he thought tomatoes had aphrodisiac qualities. Later he coined them pomi d´oro, golden apples, because of their color.
The Spanish brought the tomato not only to Europe, but also to the Caribbean and to the Philippines, from where it spread to the rest of Asia.

It is difficult to believe it now, since tomatoes are eaten in so many countries in so many different dishes, but when first introduced in Europe, tomatoes were mainly cultivated as decoration and not for consumption, since they were thought to be poisonous. Italy and Spain were the first European countries to embrace the tomato, where they started consuming them in the second half of the 16th century.
In the US It took a little bit longer for people to warm up to eating tomatoes. They were not consumed there until 1820 when Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the steps of the courthouse in Salem, Massachusetts, with a basket of tomatoes. Hundreds of spectators had come to what they believed would be a public suicide. He ate the whole basket, survived and showed everyone that tomatoes were safe for consumption.

For those who really love tomatoes:
And for those who really don´t like tomatoes:

a round, soft, red fruit that is eaten raw or cooked and that is often used in salads, sandwiches, sauces, etc. (source: Merriam Webster).

The English tomato and Dutch tomaat find their origins in Spanish tomate, which in turn comes from Náhuatl (Aztec) tomatl. In Náhuatl the word ended in atl, meaning water. The other part of the word is tomal or tomohuac, meaning fruit. Tomatl thus literally means fruit of water, referring to its juiciness.
Italian pomodoro possibly comes from pomo d´oro (golden apple), referring to the yellow/golden color in some varieties. Another possible origin is pomo d´amore (love apple), referring to its aphrodisiac properties.

Tomato in other languages:
Dutch: tomaat
Spanish: el tomate
Italian: il pomodoro


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