From poison to everyone’s favorite berry: the story of the tomato

Billions of tomatoes are grown around the world every year. They are ingredients in sauces, salad dressings, pizzas, sandwiches and almost all national cuisines of the world. The average American consumes about 9 kg of tomatoes a year! It’s hard to believe now that it wasn’t always like this. The Europeans, who in the 1700s called the tomato the “poisonous apple”, ignored (or simply didn’t know) that the Aztecs were eating the berry as early as 700 AD. Perhaps the fear of tomatoes was related to their place of origin: in the early 16th century, Cortes and other Spanish conquistadors brought seeds from Mesoamerica, where their cultivation was widespread. However, Europeans often Distrust of the fruit was added by aristocrats, who each time fell ill after eating a tomato (along with other sour foods). It is worth noting that the aristocracy used tin plates made with lead for food. When combined with tomato acids, it is not surprising that representatives of the higher layers received lead poisoning. The poor, on the other hand, tolerated tomatoes quite well, using wooden bowls. John Gerard, a barber-surgeon, published a book in 1597 called “Herballe”, which defined a tomato as. Gerard called the plant poisonous, while only the stems and leaves were unfit for food, and not the fruits themselves. The British considered the tomato to be poisonous because it reminded them of a poisonous fruit called the wolf peach. By “happy” chance, wolf peach is an English translation of the old name of tomatoes from the German “wolfpfirsich”. Unfortunately, the tomatoes also resembled the poisonous plants of the Solanceae family, namely henbane and belladonna. In the colonies, the reputation of tomatoes was no better. American colonists believed that the blood of those who ate a tomato would turn into acid! It wasn’t until 1880 that Europe began to gradually recognize the tomato as an ingredient in food. The popularity of the berry increased thanks to the Naples pizza with red tomato sauce. European immigration to America contributed to the spread of tomatoes, but prejudice still existed. In the United States, there was widespread concern about the tomato worm, three to five inches long, which was also considered poisonous. Fortunately, later entomologists confirmed the absolute safety of such worms. Tomatoes gained momentum in popularity, and in 1897 Campbell’s notorious tomato soup appeared. Today, the US grows more than 1 kg per year. Perhaps this question is eternal, as well as the primacy of the chicken or the egg. From a botanical point of view, tomatoes are multi-celled syncarp berries (fruits). The fruit has a thin skin, juicy pulp and many seeds inside. However, from the point of view of technological systematics, the tomato belongs to vegetables: it means a method of cultivation similar to other vegetable plants.

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