Dispersal

The Spanish distributed the most desirable vegetables and fruit throughout their empire. From Central America and Mexico, the Spanish introduced the tomato into the Caribbean and the Philippines. From the Philippines, use of tomato spread to Southeast Asia and ultimately the rest of Asia (Smith 1994). Through the Spaniards the tomato was also taken back to Spain and disseminated throughout Europe. The earliest mention of tomato in European literature appeared in a document written by an Italian herbalist, Petrus Andreas Matthiolus (1544). He described tomatoes as pomi d'oro (golden apple), indicating the first tomatoes used as food by Europeans were yellow fruited. Red tomatoes were introduced into Italy by two Catholic priests several years later, and were documented in 1554 by Matthiolus (McCue 1952).

In Spain the tomato was called "pome dei Moro" (Moor's apple) (Cutler 1998). The tomato then became widespread in Spain, Italy, and France in the following decades. The French referred to it affectionately as "pomme d'amour" (love apple), perhaps because of its suspected aphrodisiac properties (Gould 1983). Despite its use as a food source in southern Europe, especially Italy, in the northern European countries tomato was regarded as a garden curiosity for over a century (Rick 1995). This was mainly due to fears of toxicity, a notion based upon the presence of poisonous glycoalkaloids in the foliage and fruit of other familiar members of the nightshade family such as henbane, mandrake and deadly nightshade, to which tomato bore some morphological resemblance (Cox 2000). English authors spoke of the tomato as an ornamental plant as early as 1578 (Gould 1983). One English gardener wrote in 1596 that "these love apples are eaten abroad", but he considered the entire plant to be "of ranke and stinking savour" (Cox 2000). By 1623 four types of tomatoes were known: red, yellow, orange and golden (Gould 1983). The first cookbook containing tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, but suspicion of tomatoes persisted into the 19th century in both England and the USA (Cutler 1998). The reputation of the tomato was somewhat improved by English authors in the 1750's when Lycopersicon esculentum, which means "edible wolf peach", was given as its botanical name by Miller. In 1752 tomatoes were used in England for flavoring soups. In 1758 tomato recipes appeared in a popular British cookbook, "The Art of Cookery" by Hannah Glass (Cutler 1998). The cultivation of tomato for marketing dates from about 1800 in Europe but its true value was not realized until 1822 when details for its cultivation were described (Gould 1983).

Tomato plants were brought from Britain to North America as horticultural ornamentals by the early colonists either when they emigrated from Europe or after the Declaration of Independence was signed. First mention of tomato cultivation in the USA was made by Thomas Jefferson, who grew tomato at Mon-ticello in 1781 (Gould 1983). Later it was introduced to Philadelphia in 1798, Massachusetts in 1802, and other parts of the country. However, tomato was still considered by most people at that time to be of questionable safety as a food, and was grown mainly for ornamental or medicinal purposes. Tomato was first reported as food in the USA in New Orleans in 1812, probably due to the strong French influence in that region. Another two decades passed before tomatoes were widely cultivated as an edible vegetable during 1830 to 1840. Tomatoes were included in American cookbooks, such as The Cook's Own Book (Lee 1832), and in garden books, such as the 1843 Shaker Gardener's Manual (Harrison 2004) and The Gardener's Text-Book (Schenk 1851).

The rising popularity of the tomato as a food source encouraged the production of new cultivars. Burr listed 23 tomato cultivars in 1863, among which was "Trophy", the first large, fairly early, red, smooth, apple-shaped variety (Gould 1983). The tomato's popularity was further elevated by debate about its status as a vegetable or a fruit. The issue went all the way to the USA Supreme Court which ruled in 1887 to classify tomato as a vegetable and subject to import quotas and taxation (Cox 2000). Large scale breeding for economic traits took place in both Europe and the USA, beginning in the early 1870s. By the late 19th century tomato had firmly implanted itself in western culture. Production began to soar in the early 1920s with the advent of mass canning. Disease tolerant cul-tivars became increasingly prevalent in the USA but the development of truly resistant types would depend on resistance genes found in the closely related wild species of tomato, beginning in the late 1930s to early 1940s (Langford 1937; Stevens and Rick 1986). Wild relatives continue to be the main source of new resistance and other novel traits for tomato breeders today.

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