Tomato

(Lycopersicon esculentum) There was a belief in the 19th century that eating tomatoes caused cancer. That strange belief must have been widespread enough for Ackermenn to take pains to refute it. On the contrary, his informant says, they are "probably the most health-giving fruit in the kingdom. They sweeten the blood", and he even recommended them in dealing with insomnia. A similar belief has been recorded in more recent times. Children may be forbidden to eat them, and the reason given is that birds never peck them, and the worms would never eat them (Vickery. 1995).

The Totonac Indians of Mexico used tomatoes as a febrifuge; the raw tomato is put on a castor leaf, which is then applied to the abdomen (Kelly & Palerm), and the Maya used the crushed leaf for skin complaints, and for an inflamed throat (Roys). In Alabama, they say that you should eat tomatoes to cure a "torpid liver" (R B Browne).

Gardeners say that a dead tomato plant hung on the boughs of an apple tree through the winter, will preserve it from blight. Or the plant can be burnt under the tree, so that the smoke can ascend among the branches (Quelch).

Love-apples is an old name for tomatoes, arising from a mis-reading. The original Italian name was 'pomo dei moro' (apple of the Moors), and this later became 'pomo d'ore' (hence Gerard's Gold-apples). It was introduced to France as an aphrodisiac, and the French mis-spelled its name as 'pomme d'amour'. So the tomato eventually reached England under the name 'pome amoris' - love-apple, which name went back to America with the colonists (Lehner & Lehner).

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