The History of the Tomato

by Barbara Johnston - Date: 2006-12-09 - Word Count: 247 Share This!

Tomato history has had its origins traced back to the Aztecs around 700AD, therefore it is believed it is native to the Americas.

The word tomato comes from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum means "wolf-peach" (compare the related species, S. lycocarpum, whose scientific name means "wolf-fruit", common name "wolf-apple.")

During the 16th Century Europeans were introduced to this fruit as explorers traveled and discovered new lands. The tomato was quickly accepted throughout Southern European kitchens, yet as it moved further northwards in Europe it found more resistance.

Tomato history in Britain

The tomato plant was not grown in England until the 1590s.

One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597, it is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew that the tomato was eaten in both Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed that it was poisonous (tomato leaves and stems contain poisonous glycoalkaloids, but the fruit is safe). Gerard's views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies. By the mid 1700s, however, tomatoes were being widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century the Encyclopędia Britannica stated that the tomato was "in daily use" in soups, broths, and as a garnish.

Tomatoes were originally known as 'Love Apples', possibly based on a mistranslation of the Italian name pomo d'oro (golden apple) as pomo d'amore.

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