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Tomatoes: History, Origin, Facts... or Fiction?
A tomato importer, John Nix, decided to challenge the law after scrutinizing the Tariff Act. His case relied on the fact that tomatoes were a fruit and not vegetable, therefore, it should not be subjected to the Tariff Act. Nix's objections brought the case to the Supreme Court in 1893. Although Nix had a solid case, the Supreme Court rejected the botanical facts and continued to refer to tomatoes as a vegetable.
The UK - Introduction of the tomato
The deadly nightshade (Atropus belladonna), in particular, resembled the tomato plant the most, and was used as a hallucinogenic drug, as well as for cosmetic purposes in various parts of Europe. In Latin, the name "belladonna"; literally means "beautiful woman." The women in medieval courts would apply drop of deadly nightshade extract to their eyes, dilating their pupils, a fashionable statement at the time.
When the deadly nightshade was taken for it's hallucinogenic properties, the consumer would experience visuals and a feeling of flying or weightlessness. German folklore suggests it was also used in witchcraft to evoke werewolves, a practice know as lycanthropy. The common name for tomatoes in Germany translates to "Wolf peach," which was simply another reason for Europeans to avoid the plant.
North America - Introduction of the tomato
Early efforts by merchants to sell tomatoes were not very successful. It is said that the fruit was brought to the liberal hamlet of Salem, Mass. in 1802 by a painter who also found it difficult persuading people to try the fruit. New Orleans cuisine was reported to have used tomatoes by 1812, however, doubts about the fruit lingered in some areas.
It's thought that doubts about the plant's edibility was laid to rest, when Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson announced that he will consume a bushel of tomatoes in front of the Boston courthouse at noon on September 26, 1820. Thousands of spectators turned out to watch the man commit suicide (At least, so they thought) by consuming the poisonous fruit. It is said that spectators were shocked when they realized the Colonel will survive after consuming numerous tomatoes. This story is from an old farm journal and may not be very reliable, however, it's quite entertaining.
Tomato popularity on the rise
Bruist, a seed merchant commented on the tomato in 1858 - "In taking retrospect of the last eighteen years, there is no vegetable on the catalogue that has obtained such popularity in so short a period as the one now under consideration. In 1828-29, it was almost detested; in ten years almost every variety of pill and panacea was extract of tomato. It now occupies as great a surface of ground as cabbage, and is cultivated the length and breadth of the country." - www.heirloomseeds.com
That year, Bruits had eight cultivatars listed in his catalogue. A few years later, in 1863, a popular seed catalogue had 23 cultivars listed. One of the listed cultivars was Trophy, the first modern-looking, large, red, smooth-skinned variety which was sold for $5.00 for a packet of 20 seeds.
Large scale breeding for desirable traits became common in the 1870s in both the US and UK. In fact, by the 1880s several hundred cultivars had been named and it was clear that tomato had grown on the western culture. According to a study conducted at Michigan Agricultural College in the late 1880s, 171 of the named cultivars represented only 61 truly unique varieties, many of which were only marginally different.
Because of tomatoes natural breeding process, early cultivars did not change much and were kept in a family or community for a long time, hence the name heirlooms. There are cultivars that dates back to over one hundred years that are still produced today. Most heirloom varieties are different in color, size and shape. Some varieties are black, red with black shoulders, dark purple, rainbow and green. In terms of size, some are the size of a cherry to larger varieties weighing over 2 lb.
Heirlooms - a story
Claming that his plants could feed a family of six, Charlie peddled the crops for a dollar per plant. Within four years, Charlie generated enough money to pay off the $4,000 dollars mortgage on his home, which led to the heirloom name "Mortgage Lifter."
Heirlooms - names & origins
Elbe was cultivated in 1889 near the Elbe River in Germany. Since the 1870s, the Amish in Pennsylvania cultivated the Amish Paste variety. Brandywine was also cultivated by Amish farmers near Brandywine Creek in Chester County Pennsylvania in 1885. The hills of Virginia is thought to be the origin of the Hillbilly variety. Old Virginia was cultivated in Virginia as well in the early 1900s. In 1953 Campbell Soup Co., introduced the Ace variety which is still popular for canning. On Edgar Allan Poe's estate, a cultivar found growing there bears his mother's maiden name, Hopkins.
Please bear in mind that these heirloom stories may be true or false, in part or whole, and may be inaccurate or exaggerated.
This article is courtest of HydroponicSearch.com - The Agriculture & Gardening Search Engine.
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