History of Tomatoes
The exact origin of tomatoes remains a mystery, but there is reason to believe that the credit for this amazing fruit dates as far back as 700AD with the Peruvian Incas. It is argued that, under the name Tomatl, it was traded to the Aztecs in Mexico and from there in the 16th Century found its way via the Conquistadors to Europe. It is believed that the original tomato was yellow.
During this time tomatoes were known as:
- 'The Apple of Love' to the French
- 'The Apple of Paradise' to the Germans
- 'The Apple of Gold' to the Italians
There are conflicting reports from Elizabethan England about the tomato. In some, it is reported that the tomato was considered poisonous because it comes from the nightshade family (as do potatoes and egg plant (aubergine) ). Other hearsay reports from England during the 16th century, say that the tomato was considered a powerful aphrodisiac. Yet other reports say that it was first grown in England as an ornamental climber. The first reported British tomato grower was a Patrick Bellow in 1554!
By the 19th Century
The Great USA Debate: Fruit or Vegetable?
Until the late 1800's tomatoes were classified as a fruit in the USA. The transition from 'fruit' to vegetable' in the USA, came about purely for commercial reasons in 1893. Prior to that, tomatoes along with all other fruits, were exempt from taxes in the USA!. When this came to the attention of the Supreme Court, a Judge possibly with increased government revenues in mind, mandated that the tomato was indeed not a fruit at all because it was eaten at mealtimes. He thus classified it as a vegetable…..
By the 20th Century
A Growing Passion for Tomatoes
Tomatoes started to become household musts from summer picnics through to the main ingredients in exotic dishes. Consider Italy's amazing dishes of tomato-sauced pastas, cacciatore, pizza, minestrone, osso buco, and on and on. The French too have featured the tomato since the days of the Great Careme, King of Chefs. The Spanish honour the tomato in their famous gazpacho soup and even have a tomato throwing festival every year (not to be missed!). The Greeks skewer them with chunks of lamb. In India and Indonesia hot-tomato chutneys are a staple. In the United States the red wonder has even taken men to fame and fortune, among them Joseph Campbell, who created the world's biggest soup company by first canning large beefsteak tomatoes!!.
Medicinal Finds with Lycopenes
In addition to the growing passion for tomatoes and the many exciting new flavoursome varieties continually coming onto the market, the humble tomato has not only become one of the top selling fresh produce items in the western world, but is now formally recognised as having great medicinal benefits through lycopenes- an ingredient firmly believed to be cancer fighting…………………….what next for the tomato then?