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Stefan's Florilegium


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tomato-hist-art - 2/1/99

"You say tomato I say Xitomatl" by Lord Xaviar the Eccentric.

NOTE: See also the files: tomatoes-msg, peppers-msg, root-veg-msg,
vegetables-msg, maize-msg.


This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.

These files are available on the Internet at:

Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.

While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.

Thank you,
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous

You say Tomato I say Xitomatl

By Da`ved Man of Letters
Lord Xaviar the Eccentric.

The tomato's origins are believed to be somewhere in the
west coast highlands of South America. A wild variety can still
be found growing in Peru, Ecuador and Norther Chile. The method
by which the tomato and its relatives traveled northward into
Meso-America is not documentable. This is due to the total lack
of Archeological evidence. The Aztecs cultivated and cross bred
the plants to produce the multi-celled fruit we know today,
although theirs did not have the smooth skin of modern tomato
cultivars. The tomato also migrated to the Galapagos Islands,
this is believed to have happened by turtles after ingesting the

Tomatoes had made their first appearance as weeds in
prehistoric times, but careful cultivation and chance mutation
had increased both yield and varieties by the time Hernandez
Cortes and his Spanish army reached Mexico in 1519. Unlike many
other New World fruits and vegetables, the cultivated tomato was
found only in Central America. (Smith, 15). Tomatoes were
utilized by Native Central Americans at every stage of growth;
thin shavings of the green and unripe fruit were incorporated in
many dishes, while the ripe fruits were mixed with chillis to
make a strong-tasting sauce (Salsa?) to go with cooked beans.
This sauce is documented by Bernardino Sahagu'n, a Franciscan
Priest, He wrote (around 1530) that the Natives served it with
seafood, fowl, and other meats.

The first tomatoes to appear in Europe (in the 1520's) were,
so far as can be determined were lumpy reddish ones. Though
Pietro Andrae Matthioli (Italian herbalist) wrote (in 1544) about
mala aurea (golden apples), describing them as "flattened like
the melrose apple and segmented, green at first and when ripe of
a golden color." This is considered the first known European
reference to the tomato. The Problem with this is all explorers
notes and herbalist who were in the New World at this time all
mention the Natives using red tomatoes exclusively. Melchioris
Guilandini (Guilandinus), the second prefect of the Padua
Botanical Garden, gives us documentation for the arrival of the
red tomato in the 1520's.(1) This source conflicts with the name
given to them by a number of different sources.

In several languages the tomato was called pomodoro (from
the Italian) or pomme d'amour (trench), meaning respectively
golden fruit and love fruit. The Aztecs name for the tomato, was
'xitomatl' which means large tomatl. The tomatl (called
Tomatillo today) is a small green (often yellowish), sour tasting
fruit similar to the tomato. The Spaniards, called them both
tomate (from the Nahuatl tomatl), which led to confusion as to
which plant was the tomato. It was accepted into their diet
along with mosr introductions from their American
empire. Its from this that the modern common name was derived.
Its botanical name, Lycopersicum esculentum, means "edible wolf
peach" (Reed 172).

The closest the tomato comes to golden in color is the
yellow or whitish varieties of tomato that exist in the Americas.
The natives and explorers who found them have never been noted as
mentioning them for useion as an aphrodisiac. Dr Rudolf Grewe
delivered at a symposium (and wrote a paper in 1986) in Konya,
Turkey, that has solved this little mystery. He emphasizes that
the tomato is in the same family (Solanaceae) as the eggplant.
The eggplant was called pomme des Mours, fruit of the Moors,
because it was a favorite vegetable of the Arabs, and this was
mispronounced as pomme d'amour. A similar mispronouncing made
it pomodoro in Italian, which it what it is still called. (Foster, 7)

This begins to explains why the tomato was given the Italian
name pomi d'oro. Rembertus Dodoenaeus's Cruydy-Boeck, (first
published in Antwerp, 1554) contains (in later editions)
illustrations with a flat top and bottom and numerous lobes or
indentations around the sides, which gave it a star like
appearance. The tomato has been cultivated and carefull bred
over the centuries to the conventional smooth skinned varieties
enjoyed in the modern world. The number of original types is
sketchy, but is believed to have been five or six. This has
grown to several hundreds and continues to g as fads come and

Dodoen makes repeated references to the fruit's acidic taste
to reinforce the classification of tomatoes as a fruit. The
classification of the tomato as a fruit was challenged by certain
botanists (until the late 19th cent) because the very high acid
prevented the tomato's use like a fruit.

The use of the tomato in and as a sauce is documented in
1590, by Jose de Acosta in his Historia natural y moral de las
Indias (published in Seville). Acosta does not give recipes as
such but gives his observations on Native South American usage.
He is quoted as stating that tomatoes were "cold and very
wholesome" and "full of juice, which gives a good taste to
sauce, and they are good to eat."(Smith, 15). This is unusual as
Pietro A. Matthioli wrote (in 1544) that the golden apples are to
be cooked like eggplants; fried in olive oil with salt and
pepper. This might give credence to the theories that the
Italians adopted the tomato more readily than the Spanish.
Around 1595, Gregorio de los Rios, a priest who worked in the
botanical gardens at Aranjuez, Spain, described tomatoes such:
"It is said that they are good for sauces." This sounds like
Rios never tasted them himself. This may or may not be the case
as he makes no mention of them in further writings.

The cookbooks (of Spain), written at this time have no
mention of the tomato as use as cooked food. It is not until
some time around 1608 that we can find tomatoes being listed in a
salad recipe with cucumbers from Seville. Even with the above
reference the first cookbook containing tomato recipes wasn't
published (in Naples) until 1692. These recipes are noted as
being Spanish in their origin.

This information does tend to cast doubt on the myth that
tomatoes were not eaten "because they are members of the
NIGHTSHADE FAMILY." Even though they were classified (by
Matthioli) as being related to the Mandrake. Mandrake is
mentioned in the Catholic Bible, in Hebrew it was called dudaim,
or "love apples or love plants." The Central American natives
have been documented as having enjoyed tomatoes, without injury,
except for some understandable stomach distress. This might be
better explained from the large use of chilles, included in their
tomato recipes.

The historical references to a plant not being eaten for the
above stated reason, is the potato. The potatoes above ground
growth does resemble its more deadly cousin, deadly nightshade
(both members of the Solanaceae family). And might have caused
the death of the unwary domesticated cow, pig, goat or sheep.
The tomato was not grown in England until the 1590, even though
they were in Continental Europe since the 1540's. John Gerard
(Herball) wrote that he considered the entire plant to be "of
ranke and stinking savour." He wrote this opinion along with the
false understanding that the origin of the golden apple or apples
of love was either Spain or Italy. He further states that
tomatoes were eaten in abudance, "boiled with pepper, salt and
oile." John Parkinson, the apothecary to King James I and
botanist for King Charles I, proclaimed that, while love apples
were eaten by the people in the hot contries to "coole and quench
the heate and thirst of the hot stomaches," British gardeners
grew them only for curiositnd for the amorous aspect or beauty
of the fruit. (Jackson, 14)(Gerard, 275-6).


Coyle, L Patrick; The World Encyclopedia of Food; Facts on
file, NY. 1982.

Elkort, Martin; The Secret Life of Food; Jeremy P. Tarcher,
LA. Ca. 1991.

Foster, Nelson., Linda S. Cordell Editors; Chilies to
Chocolate: food the Americas gave the world; The Univ. of
Arizona Press, Tucson. 1992.

Gerard, John; Herball

Grun, Bernard; The Timetables of History 3rd edition; Simon
and Schuster, NY. 1991.

Hale, William Harlan; The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated
History of Eating and Drinking through the Ages; American
Heritage Pub. Co.Inc, Doubleday and Co. Inc. NY. 1968.

Lacey, Richard W.; Hard to Swallow; A brief history of
food; Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994.

Leopold, A. C., and R. Ardrey; Toxic substances in plants
and the food habits of early man. Science 176; p 512-13.

Luckwill, Leonard C.; The Genus Lycopersicon: An Historical,
Biological and TaxSurvey of the Wild and Cultivated
Tomatoes; Aberdeen Univ. Studies # 120 (Aberdeen Univ.
Press. 1943.

McCue, George A.; "The History of the Use of the Tomato: An
Annotated Bibliography"; in Annals of the Missouri Botanical
Garden 39 Nov. 1952. Di pedanio Dioscoride anazarbeo libri
cinque della historia; By Pietro Andrae Matthioli (1544).

Mcgee, Harold; On Food and Cooking; Macmillian Pub. Co., NY.

Peterson, T. Sarah; Acquired Taste; The French Origins of
Modern Cooking; Cornell Univ. Press. Ithaca. NY. 1994.

Ritchie, Carson I.A.; Food in Civilization: How History Has
Been Affected by Human Tastes; Beaufort Books, NY. 1981

Salaman, Radcliff; The History and Social Influence of the
Potato; Rev. ed. with a new introduction by J.G. Hawkes.
Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1986.

Smith, Andrew F.; The Tomato in America; Early History,
Culture, and Cookery; Univ. of S. Carolina Press, Columbia,
SC. 1994.
Sokolov, Raymond; Why We Eat What We Eat: How Columbus
Changed the Way the World Eats; Simon & Schuster, NY. 1993.

Tannahill, Reay; Food in History; Crown Pub., NY. 1989.

Tousaint-Samat, Maguelonne {Anthea Bell, trans} History of
Food; Blackwell, Cambridge, Mass. 1992.

Toxicants Occurring Naturally in Foods; 2nd Ed., National
Academy of Sciences, Washington D.C. 1973.

Wilson, C.Anne; Food and Drink in Britain; Chicago Academy
Pub. Chicago. 1991.

1 Squalermo, Semplici, 217; Asa Gray and J. hammond Trumbull,
Review of DeDandoll's Origin of Cultivated Plants with
Annotations upon Certain American Species," American Journal
of Science, 26 (August 1883): 128; Camerarius, Hortus, 70;
Guilandini, Papyrus, 90; J.A.Jenkins, "The Origin of the
Cultivated Tomato," Economic Botany, 2 (October-December
1948): 379-92.

Copyright 1997 by Lord Xaviar the Eccentric,
<Lord_Xaviar_the_eccentric@yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication
in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and is notified by

If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.

<the end>

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