You say tomato I say Xitomatl

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"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 Stefan’s 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, . 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.

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