The tomato is eaten in many countries around the world. This was not always the case, since the reputation of nightshades as poisonous plants preceded the introduction of tomatoes as food into diets in Europe and the United States. Native to Central America and Mexico, the tomato was cultivated and eaten by aboriginal inhabitants in those regions before the Spanish came to the Americas. It is referred to as a food in Italy as early as 1544. It is believed that the Italians may have gotten the tomato from the Turks, and it was known originally as the Moor's apple. After its introduction into France, the tomato became known as the love apple. The French later introduced the tomato into the New Orleans diet when they owned the Louisiana Territory. By 1597 it was being grown in England.
The reputation of the tomato as a nutritious and delicious food took a long time to gain acceptance. During the sixteenth century, some herbalists were writing that the tomato was a harmful food, but in Italy tomatoes were being dried in the sun and eaten without any ill effects. By the eighteenth century the tomato was being used in soups in England, Spain, and Portugal.
The tomato was introduced into the United States as a food around 1710, but did not become significant there until it was made into catsup in New Orleans in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Today tomatoes are a common element in American, Mexican, South American, European, and Asian diets. It is difficult to imagine a diet without pizza, spaghetti, salsa, or catsup. Besides its usefulness as fiber in the diet, the tomato is also an excellent source of vitamin C. Tomatoes come in a range of colors from red to yellow and, in size, from cherry tomatoes to large beefsteaks.
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