The Deadly, Deadly Tomato.
“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit; technically, they’re a berry and legally a vegetable. In 1893 a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, the tomato became legally classified as a vegetable because it’s used as one. More recently, tomato ketchup was named a vegetable in the school lunch program.”
In the late 1700’s, a large percentage of Europeans were afraid of the lowly tomato. It was literally called a “a poison apple” because the higher classes of consumers at the time and place were thought to have died from eating them. An explanation? Wealthy Europeans use pewter plates high in lead content and the tomato got all the blame.
Early herbalist and religious references botanically named it also a mandrake (AKA as an aphrodisiac) and classified it as a poisonous nightshade called Solanaceae thought to contain toxins called tropane alkaloids. Other foods in this classification include the eggplant. Currently, some people consider them a problem especially if you have arthritis pain – cutting nightshades out of your diet may be worth a try; however, there is no reliable evidence to support this claim.
The best tomatoes are seasonal – many of you may remember waiting for them to be at their flavor peak in the late summers (dependent on what part of the country you lived in like the northeast and upper Midwest states.) There, the weather is ideal for tomato growth with hotter days and cooler nights. It is best to buy tomatoes from local farmers and getting vine-ripened whenever possible. They taste the best and their flavor is at peak time.
” The fruit’s origin began in the Americas and eaten by Aztecs as early as 700 AD where it was known as the “tomatl.” It wasn’t grown in Britain until the 1590’s. It was associated with hotter climates and for this reason in cooler climates was only used as ornamental instead of food.”
“The first known reference to tomato was in 1710 in the British North American colonies and places the tomato in the Carolinas where it began to be accepted even with its ominous background. Recipes appeared in American cookery manuscripts, but fears and rumors lingered. Around 1880, the tomato grew in popularity in Europe due to the invention of the pizza. Presently, the United States has become the world’s largest tomato producer.
Tomatoes have considerable vitamin C and some vitamin A.
Tomatoes are claimed to be an anticancer weapon. It contains lycopene, the plant pigment makes the fruit red. It is particularly associated as a prostate cancer fighter.
However, it is best consumed when heated with oil for this effect.
Tomatoes also have a compound called lutein that may help prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people.
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Smith, 2007
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S