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A Hidden History of Tomatoes

Grove English Communication II, an English textbook for senior high students carries in Lesson 5 about the history of tomatoes.

Over 8,000 kinds of tomatoes are cultivated throughout the world. Tomatoes are the world's most widely produced vegetable. Originally, however, tomatoes were grown in the highlands of the Andes in South America. The native kind was small, like a cherry tomato.

People in Central America called them tomatl, which means "swelling fruit" in the old Mexican language. It was in the 16th century when tomatoes reached Europe through Spain together with potatoes. 

Europeans at first believed that tomatoes were poisonous. But some people in southern Italy tried eating this scary vegetable when they were suffering from famine.

During the 17th century, tomatoes came into wider use in Italy because they went very well with pasta.

Tomatoes came to North America in the mid-18th century. It is recorded that Tomas Jefferson grew tomatoes for food in his garden in 1781.

Tomatoes were first brought to Japan in the Edo Period. But the people enjoyed only their shapes and colors. Then, in the Meiji period, tomatoes were introduced again as food. Fukuzawa Yukichi published Western recipes, including tomato dishes, in a newspaper.