Europeans and Tomatoes

Atlas Obscura comes up with some pretty amazing stuff, but history is not their strong point here, complaining about why Europeans did not take to tomatoes and how they fed corn to their cattle.

Well, the most obvious thing that occurs to me here is that when the New World was discovered, Europe was in a mini ice age – look at the clothes of ElizabethI’s court – all rather heavy wool, with lots of hats and gloves. So this suggests to me the plants that thrived in the New World did not thrive here, so would not have been the shiny red sweet tomatoes or the mature cobs of corn, but rather stunted, wooden versions that failed to mature.

Another possibility is that the Nw World had a lot of strange plants and animals, so they may not have felt safe with them. Tomatoes and potatoes are from the Solanaceae family which has a number of rather nasty poisonous members. I seem to recall as late as the mid 19th century someone tried to poison Abraham Lincoln with tomatoes, so this fear seems to have lingered even across the pond. To complicate matters, it is still unclear what tomatoes are – fruit or vegetable, so they may have been confused as to what to do with them. A lot of Europeans were not interested in local diet and habit, but more in importing their own views and beliefs, often importing their own food which often failed to thrive.

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