On Edible Tomatoes

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The things one has to find out in the course of a work day.

I read the supposed "fact" that A.W. Livingston of Reynoldsburg, Ohio developed the world's first edible tomato. This really bugged me. It suggested that up until about 1872 all of Italian cuisine had been tomatoless.

Now, it makes sense that tomato, a member of the nightshade family, might once not have been edible. But I kept finding references further and further back as to people eating tomatoes.

So what is it that Livingston actually did? He hybridized and hand selected wild tomatoes to produce a plump, ripe fruit that we know today. He commercialized the cultivation of tomatoes. It is to Livingston and his efforts that we owe a majority of the variety of tomatoes available today.

I know you all really wanted to know. Well, perhaps not, but it's been a lingering mystery to me for two days and I thought I'd share what I'd finally tracked down. So those of you in Reynoldsburg at the Tomato Festival, take a moment to correct the misconceptions, but still to honor the father of the appetizing tomato.

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Oddly, Wikipedia's article mentions nothing at all about Livingston, and places the Italian use of tomatoes in the late 18th century, about 100 years before Livingston is supposed to have produced his hybridized tomato.

I have also read that one reason people mistook tomatoes for poisonous, is that they used to eat them on pewter plates, and the acid in teh tomatoes reacts with the pewter in a way that is not very healthy.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 11, 2004 3:58 PM.

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