High summer is here, and you know what that means: fresh, local tomatoes. If you don’t have plants of your own, you probably know someone who does. Whether transformed into your favorite sauce or salsa, or simply eaten whole with a little salt, tomatoes are one of the season’s most rewarding edible treasures. And to celebrate, today we explore the history of this delicious, world-renowned fruit.
Native to western South and Central America, tomatoes were first used in cooking by the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans. Though the exact date of domestication remains a mystery, by 500 BC tomatoes were being cultivated in southern Mexico and other areas. Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes may have been the first to transfer the tomato to Europe, though it’s also possible that Christopher Columbus did so as early as 1493. Over the next several centuries, tomatoes spread throughout Europe and into the Caribbean, the Philippines, and into Southeast Asia. By the late 17th century tomato recipes were beginning to appear in Italian and Spanish cookbooks, yet it was not until the early 18th century that tomato cultivation was confirmed here in North America.
Today there are around 7,500 tomatoes grown worldwide. Heirloom tomatoes, open-pollinated varieties grown for more than 50 years, are becoming increasingly popular. Here at Blue Moon we offer a blend of delicious heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, including Cherokee, Caiman, Lola, Sunkist, Copia, and Azoychka.