The Tomato

Originally cultivated by the famously blood thirsty Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D., the tomato is native to the Americas.

Tomato history - the evil origin

The Spanish explorer Cortez conquered the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, later to be renamed Mexico City, in 1521. It is presumed that the tomato found its' way across the Atlantic shortly after. When explorers
Brought back seed to Europe from Mexico.

The name "tomato" derives from "tomatl," its name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec people. The English form "tomate" first appeared in the 17th century, and was later modified to "tomato," probably under the influence of the more familiar "potato." Most of these early fruits were yellow, and became known as "manzanas" (apples) and "pomi d'oro" (apple of gold). They were considered poisonous but appreciated for their beauty.

Tomatoes are evil and deadly

tomato manAs the tomato arrived in Europe the plant became associated with poisonous members of the Solanceae family, specifically henbane, mandrake and deadly nightshade, to which it bore more than a passing resemblance.

Deadly nightshade is a poisonous plant which has been used as both a hallucinogenic drug and a beauty aid in different parts of Europe. The Latin name "belladonna" means beautiful woman, in the medieval courts of Europe ladies would apply a few drops of nightshade extract to their eyes to dilate their pupils, a look considered most fashionable at the time.

The hallucinogenic properties of the plant comprised of visions and the sense of flying. This most led to the association of the nightshade family with witchcraft.

German folklore claims that witches used plants like mandrake and nightshade to summon werewolves, a practice known as lycanthropy. The common German name for tomatoes translates to "wolf peach", and because of this it was universally avoided. In the 18th century the tomato species was named Lycopersicon esculentum, which literally means, "edible wolf peach".

Despite its association with Witches and the Black Arts, early efforts to peddle the tomato were not highly successful. Even in one of America's towns most associated with Witchcraft - the hamlet of Salem, Massachusetts a painter hoping to make a little extra money selling the fruit had difficulty even convincing people to taste the red fruit.

The Tomatoes connection with bloodshed continued in Europe. During the French Revolution in 1783the patriotic Republican citizens of Paris who wore the Red Cap as a mark of faith in the Republic.
While their main aim was beheading aristocrats they still had to eat. They were addressed on one occasion by a zealous chef who suggested that the faithful should eat red food to demonstrate their devotion to the revolution.

The Tomato was known to be popular in various southern parts of the continent but was not recommended by the French Aristocracy, making it the perfect mascot for the blood thirsty hordes.
It quickly became the fruit of choice to the Republican masses and came to be served as stewed side dishes and as summer salads. The tomato arrived in Greece in 1818 almost the same time with the potato.

On September 26th, 1830, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the steps of the courthouse in Salem, New Jersey with a basket of potentiallytoxic fruit. Despite warnings that its poison would turn his blood to acid, he told several hundred cheering spectators that he planned to eat the entire basket - and survive.

"The foolish Colonel will foam and froth at the mouth," his own doctor shouted, "and double over with appendicitis. All that oxalic acid - one dose and he is dead. He might even be exposing himself to brain fever. Should he by some unlikely chance survive his skin will stick to his stomach and cause cancer."
Johnson, wearing black, ate the entire basket and indeed survived. The source of this story was an old farm journal, and may be less than reliable. If it is true, he was lucky those fruit were Tomatoes which as the evidence shows are Evil.

Tomatoes - a pop history

In 1897, Joseph Campbell came up with the idea of condensed tomato soup - by reducing water in the tin, storage and shipping costs were reduced.
Campbell's soup packaging later became iconic when Andy Warhol used the image in more than 100 pop-art works.

According to art myth: Andy Warhol's mother served him tomato soup for lunch for twenty years which was why he painted tomato soup cans.
Andy Warhol was known for dissolving the boundaries between high and low culture: he used silk-screening techniques to mechanically reproduce consumer images such Campbell's soup cans.

Also in the late sixties sci-fi flick Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was released, so successful was this characterizing of the evil fruit that a sequel was later made.

In 1948 Tomato juice is combined with other juices in V8 Vegetable juice which was acquired by Campbell's. It advertised it, using movie actor Ronald Reagan as a spokesman, among others. In 1981, the USDA chairman declared ketchup to be a vegetable in order to justify Reagan administration budget cuts in the school lunch program.

President Nixon covered his cottage cheese with Tomato Ketchup.

Superstition once had it that placing ripe tomatoes on a mantel when first entering a new dwelling would guarantee future prosperity or will ward off evil spirits

Pincushions the color and shape of ripe tomatoes were used instead if ripe tomatoes were not available. To this day, pincushions are most often red.

Nurserymen use tomato seedlings the way miners use canary birds. The seedlings cannot survive the smallest amounts of natural gas, so they're placed in greenhouses to warn of leaking gas heaters.

tomato group

According to the 1996 edition of the Guinness Book of Records the largest tomato ever grown weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

Tomatoes are used in many food products, including of course, tomato sauce, ketchup, pasta and pizza. According to a Steel Packing Council survey of 1997, 68% of chefs use canned tomatoes for convenience, quality and flavoring.

There are many different recipes for tomato sauce and every Italian family has its favorite. No two tomato sauces are identical. This is reflected in the Sicilian expression: "He is always different, like a sauce."

The word ketchup is derived from the Chinese ke-tsiap, a pickled fish sauce. It became kechap and ketjap in Indonesia. Seventeenth century English sailors first discovered the delights of this Chinese condiment and brought it west. Ketchup was first mentioned in print around 1690. It went through various changes, including the addition of tomatoes in the 1700s.


tomato plant

About 161.8 million tons of tomatoes were produced in the world in 2012. China, the largest producer, accounted for about one quarter of the global output, followed by India and the United States. For one variety, plum or processing tomatoes, California accounts for 90% of U.S. production and 35% of world production.

In 2012, tomato production was valued at 58 billion dollars and tomatoes were the eighth most valuable agricultural product worldwide. According to FAOSTAT, the top producers of tomatoes (in tons) were

There are around 7,500 tomato varieties grown for various purposes. Heirloom tomatoes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among home gardeners and organic producers, since they tend to produce more interesting and flavorful crops at the cost of disease resistance and productivity. In 1973, Israeli scientists developed the world's first long shelf-life commercial tomato varieties.

tomato hydro

Hybrid plants remain common, since they tend to be heavier producers, and sometimes combine unusual characteristics of heirloom tomatoes with the ruggedness of conventional commercial tomatoes.

Tomato varieties are roughly divided into several categories, based mostly on shape and size.

"Slicing" or "globe" tomatoes are the usual tomatoes of commerce, used for a wide variety of processing and fresh eating.

Beefsteak tomatoes are large tomatoes often used for sandwiches and similar applications. Their kidney-bean shape, thinner skin, and shorter shelf life make commercial use impractical.

Ox heart tomatoes can range in size up to beefsteaks, and are shaped like large strawberries.
Plum tomatoes, or paste tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are bred with a higher solids content for use in tomato sauce and paste, and are usually oblong.

Pear tomatoes are pear-shaped, and are based upon the San Marzano types for a richer gourmet paste.

Cherry tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes generally eaten whole in salads.

Grape tomatoes, a more recent introduction, are smaller and oblong, a variation on plum tomatoes, and used in salads.

Campari tomatoes are also sweet and noted for their juiciness, low acidity, and lack of meatiness. They are bigger than cherry tomatoes, but are smaller than plum tomatoes.

tomato sun

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