We all know that tomatoes have been “stars” of diets all over the world for many centuries because of its versatility as a fruit. There is substantial evidence that tomato cultivation and consumption dates back to prehistoric age. Wild tomatoes may have grown nearby human settlements and were used as staple food until the idea of plant cultivation began to spread.
However, research shoes that tomato cultivation originated in the South America specifically in the Andes where tomatoes grow wild. Historian believes that the Aztecs and Incas were the first cultivators of the tomato plant dating back as early as 700 AD. The plant which the Spanish Conquistadors brought back from Central America reached Europe in the 16th century. By that time, though, there was widespread cultivation of tomatoes and much debate about where tomatoes were first raised and how it found its way to Mexico. Legend tells that two Jesuit priests brought the first tomato plant from Mexico to Italy.
When tomato cultivation caught on, people in Mexico, South and Central America cultivated small tomatoes and used them as part of their daily diet. Aztecs grew tomatoes and added them to many of their dishes, including the early recipe of salsa. Tomato was called xitomatl, Aztec word for the fruit, and tomati, as called by the Central American Indian.
The Indians in the New World may have cultivated and grew tomatoes for centuries. They may have recognized the versatility of this fruit and its nutritional content. Since tomatoes grow best in warmer regions, tomatoes may have became one of the most important crops to the Indian cultures.
By the 15th century, tomato cultivation was being done by the New World Indians, and adventurers and explorers became attracted to the tomato plants and fruits. Eventually, European explorers imported the tomato to Europe where people have enjoyed different tomato dishes to this date.
It has been noted that tomatoes brought back to Europe were very similar to the Mexican tomato species cultivated for centuries ago rather than any of the wild tomatoes found in South America.
The wild tomatoes or cerasiforme still grow in Central America today. The early domesticated variety of creeping vine produces a small bright red and round fruit are popular known as cherry tomatoes. It has become a favorite of tomato fans used as garnishes and in salads.
In the United States, tomatoes were introduced by European colonists. Tomatoes were first used for medicinal purposes and as an ornamental plant rather than fruit or vegetable to be eaten. It was believed to be a poisonous plant at that time and was even associated with witchcraft.
Tomato cultivation has survived centuries of plant evolution. Now, people who grew tomatoes at home often can them for personal consumption or to sell to neighbors. Canning tomatoes solved the major problem of places with colder climates that weren’t able to cultivate tomatoes, since it is a warm-weather crop. Nowadays, many homes have their own tomato garden and enjoy cultivating their own tomatoes.
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