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Amazing, Historical Ways To Use Tomatoes! Part 2

Updated on December 15, 2011

Just when and where the tomato was first cultivated, however, is somewhat of a mystery. As for location, cultural evidence points to Central America. Early Peruvian tribes were known to decorate pottery and cloths with depictions of important foodstuffs and other things central to their existence. The tomato, however, is not depicted on any known artifacts from this area. In addition, written records from ancient tribes in Peru do not mention tomatoes as an important food crop. In contrast, Aztec writings found in Central America make reference to recipes containing tomatoes, peppers and salt.

Genetic comparisons of cultivars directly descended from the original plants transported to Europe found they were more closely related to those common in Mexico and Central America at that time than those growing in Peru. It is also known that tomatoes were extensively cultivated in Central America at the time Spanish explorers reached the region in the 16th century.

Exactly when the tomato first made its way across the Atlantic is also a mystery. Since the Spanish were the first Europeans to explore Central America, they were likely brought initially into Spain. This would have occurred sometime between 1521 and 1544, since Spanish explorers invaded the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan in 1521 and the earliest known reference of the tomato in European writings is in an herbal reference written in 1544.

In this book, the author, Mattholius, noted that Italians ate tomatoes with oil, salt and pepper. He called the tomato pomi d'oro, which is Italian for golden apple and that is still the proper Italian term for it. Thus, it is likely that the first tomatoes in Europe were yellow. According to the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University, the introduction of red tomatoes in Italy didn't occur until the 18th century.

Within a few decades tomato cultivation spread throughout Spain, Italy and France. The French word for it was pomme d'amour (love apple). This name may stem from a belief that tomatoes possessed aphrodisiac properties. It may, however, have simply been a corruption of the Spanish term for them, pome dei Moro (Moor's apple). Initially, the French were reluctant to eat tomatoes. Instead, they cultivated the plant as an ornamental. Although it wasn't long before they were used in the cookery of southern France, tomatoes were unknown in Paris until late in the 18th century.

The English and those in other northern European countries were even more leery of this strange new plant. An English text published in 1578 referred to it as a horticultural ornamental. In 1596, an English herbalist noted that although they were eaten by foreigners, they were "of rank and stinking savour." The wariness of the tomato among Europeans from the more northern latitudes had much to do with the interrelationship between the fruit and the poisonous members of the Solanaceae family. In German folklore, witches used such plants to summon werewolves. In fact, the German translation for the genus name, Lycopersicon, is, "wolf peach."

You know... I've noticed that if I have a big spaghetti with marinara sauce dinner on the full moon I actually get hairier... everywhere but where I want it, on the top of my head, though.


Anyway, back to the story...

Continued In: Amazing, Historical Ways To Use Tomatoes! Part 3

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    • profile image

      loverchika 6 years ago

      thanks for helping me on my hw

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks! I'm just doing my part to make sure that an enthusiastic tomato lover is an educated tomato lover!

    • ButterflyWings profile image

      ButterflyWings 8 years ago

      I've learned more about tomatoes tonight than I ever expected to. About all I knew prior to reading this hub is that I cannot imagine a garden without them. :-)