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Tomatoes: A Love Story

the history of tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

The tomato, scientifically known as Solanum lycopersicum, is a fruit that has a fascinating history that is as colorful as the fruit itself.

What did early tomatoes looks like
Wild Tomatoes

Tomatoes originated in South America, specifically in what is now Peru and Ecuador, where indigenous people cultivated and consumed it for thousands of years. Spanish explorers introduced tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century, where it initially faced skepticism but eventually became popular in Mediterranean cuisine. In the 18th century, tomatoes made their way to North America and were embraced by colonists, leading to the development of different varieties. Today, tomatoes are widely consumed and used in various culinary preparations worldwide, making them an integral part of cuisines globally.

Thomas Jefferson: The Founding Farmer

Thomas Jefferson and his love of tomatoes
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a great lover of tomatoes and played a significant role in popularizing them in the United States. He was known for his experimental approach to agriculture and horticulture, and his Monticello garden was a testament to this. He grew over 300 varieties of more than 90 different plants, including tomatoes. Jefferson's fascination with tomatoes began when he was serving as the U.S. Minister to France from 1785 to 1789. He first encountered tomatoes in Paris and was intrigued by their taste and potential health benefits. Upon his return to the United States, he started growing them in his garden and incorporating them into his meals.

Despite the common belief at the time that tomatoes were poisonous, Jefferson's advocacy for the fruit helped to dispel this myth and encouraged more Americans to include tomatoes in their diet. Today, tomatoes are a staple in American cuisine, thanks in part to Jefferson's pioneering efforts.

Fruit or Vegetable?

Tomatoes, despite being botanically classified as berries due to their fleshy nature and development from a single flower with one ovary, have a unique history in the United States. This history is marked by a Supreme Court ruling in 1893, known as Nix v Hedden, which was necessitated to determine their classification for taxation purposes. The Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, had stipulated that importers pay a tax on vegetables, but not on fruits. This led John Nix, a prominent produce seller in New York City, to file a claim against Edward L. Hedden, the Collector of the Port of New York, arguing that tomatoes should not be taxed as vegetables since they were botanically fruits. The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the botanical origins of tomatoes, ruled them as vegetables based on their usage in main meals rather than desserts and the general public perception. This ruling has since influenced the classification of tomatoes as vegetables by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Let us raise a glass in appreciation to this amazing fruit and the incredible journey it's taken to get to our tables.

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