Tomato Lore and LegendUp until the end of the eighteenth century, physicians warned against eating tomatoes, fearing they caused not only appendicitis but also stomach cancer from tomato skins adhering to the lining of the stomach.
Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, New Jersey had brought the tomato home from abroad in 1808. He had been offering a prize yearly for the largest fruit grown, but the general public considered the tomato an ornamental plant rather than one for food.
As the story is told, it was Colonel Johnson who on September 26, 1820 once and for all proved tomatoes non-poisonous and safe for consumption. He stood on the steps of the Salem courthouse and bravely consumed an entire basket of tomatoes without keeling over or suffering any ill effects whatsoever. His grandstanding attracted a crowd over over 2,000 people who were certain he was committing public suicide. The local firemen's band even played a mournful dirge to add to the perceived morbid display of courage.
Johnson's public stunt garnered a lot of attention, and North America's love affair with the tomato was off and running.
By 1842, farm journals of the time were touting the tomato as the latest craze and those who eschewed it as "objects of pity."
More about Tomatoes and Tomato Recipes: Tomato History
Tomato Lore and Legends
Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? FAQ
Vine-ripened Tomatoes FAQ
Tomato Selection and Storage
Commercially-Grown and Hydroponic Tomatoes
Are there male and female tomatoes? FAQ
Tomatoes and Health
Tomato Cooking Tips and Hints
Tomato Equivalents and Substitutions
Photo © 2006 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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