30% OFF Pride collection code: USAPRIDE! Free Shipping over $99

Cultural Capsule: The Origin of the Tomato

by Stephen Chavez June 01, 2011

By Contributing Writer: Norma Vega

Every wonder where the first tomatoes originated? These plump fruits (yes, fruits, not vegetables!) grew wild in the Andes region of South America, but it wasn’t until they reached the central region of Mexico that the Aztecs began to cultivate them into the round, fleshy summer edibles we now recognize them to be.

The Aztec word, xitomatl later became the Spanish word, ‘tomate’. According to accounts of Franciscan priests, the Aztecs would mash tomatoes up with chili and squash seeds, so sauces or Mexican salsas are nothing new and have been around for centuries! One of the first tomato imports to Europe was of a yellow variety, and hence, the Italian word pomodoro (pomo: apple,  d’oro: of gold) was created. This golden apple, however, was not well received in many parts of Europe. Tomatoes, along with other new food items from the American continent, arrived in Europe in the 1500’s, when an emerging puritanical worldview grabbed a hold of the European psyche. European xenophobia (feeling fearful or contemptuous of foreigners) tainted their perception of items brought to them from ‘heathen lands.’ The tomato, because of its deep reddish hue, was thought to be poisonous and even sinful. Imagine, this fleshy, succulent and curvaceous fruit germinating the seeds of sin in your mind! Ironically, the initial rejection of this new forbidden fruit also incited curiosity as it was thought to be an aphrodisiac.

However, with the passing of time the tomato triumphed in Europe and within a 200 year span it was cultivated all over the globe and was incorporated into local cuisines all over the world. Can one imagine what Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, and especially Italian modern cuisines would be without this red fruit? In fact, the tomato has also inspired poets to write about it. Pablo Neruda, Chile’s most famous poet, in “Ode to the Tomato” reminds us that because the tomato does not have a ‘defense system’ made up of husks, pits, thorns or hard peels, it is the most generous of fruits, for it is pure pulp, flesh, and juice! So this summer enjoy the pure abundance of this magical orb!

Next morsel of food history… the potato!


(photo by: Daniel Goldberg, copyright © 2010)

Editor’s Note:  We want to thank Norma for her contribution. Click on the photo on the right to see the Yellow Tomatoes Stuffed with Grilled Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese recipe by Rafael  Palomino from his Latin Grill cook book. This week we’ll be featuring a number of tomato-inspired recipes.

The post Cultural Capsule: The Origin of the Tomato appeared first on Latino Foodie.

Stephen Chavez
Stephen Chavez


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Culinary

Maple Cream Easter Eggs

by Femme Fraîche March 20, 2016

Maple Cream Easter EggsEvery year when I was a kid, I could count on two things in my Easter basket – marshmallow eggs and maple cream eggs. Each served different purposes. The maple cream Easter eggs were my favorites and what I squealed over even more than finding plastic hidden eggs that held a dollar bill or a tiny toy. The marshmallow eggs were nothing I ever fancied and always found their way into the freezer for...

Continue Reading →

Salsa Casera Recipe – Super Hot and Delicious

by Stephen Chavez March 12, 2016

Salsa Casera or House Salsa is one of the simplest and most flavorful salsas that brings a robust heat and a smokey flavor from the charred tomatoes and chile peppers. Beware! I like heat and so this recipe has one dried Scorpion pepper added to the mix. Scorpion peppers are one of the hottest chiles in the world, with a mean heat of more than 1.2 million Scoville heat units (SHUs).

Using a...

Continue Reading →

Mushroom and Kale Egg Bake

by Femme Fraîche March 06, 2016

Mushroom and Kale Egg BakeAdulting is hard stuff. Sure, there are the big things like taking care of kids or parents, unexpected car and home repairs, dealing with awful work situations, but sometimes the littlest things feel the most difficult. These days, one of my biggest dilemmas is finding what to feed myself in the mornings that is convenient, nourishing, and so tasty I’ll be psyched to eat it a few days a week. This...

Continue Reading →