tomatoes: thesis and antithesis


Though it’s hard to imagine, Americans feared the deadly tomato more than did the British, reluctant to treat them even as ornamental. The earliest references to the plant in America come from a herbalist, in 1710, at a South Carolina plantation, who approached the tomato with the same trepidation that sushi eaters approach the blowfish: they might taste wonderful, but I am not dying to find out. He exhibited them on his property as a curiosity. According to the standard work, Andrew Smith’s The Tomato in America, attitudes did not really begin to change until 100 years later when the president himself, Thomas Jefferson, announced in 1809 that he had begun growing tomatoes on his own grounds and serving them at state dinners. By then, the British had had several centuries to get used to tomatoes, and were eating them in at least small amounts. But Americans remained wary. Jefferson was in the last year of his presidency, and who knows, perhaps he thought he had little to lose in recommending them.

more from Cabinet here.