Imagine: Its a warm sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing. You wonder out to the garden and spy a beautifully red sun kissed tomato peeking out from the leaves. You pick it and bring it inside but you take time to smell the slight sweetly acidic notes emanating from the fruit.
Tomatoes at one time were called "Love Apples" because the French called them "Pomme d'Amour", believing them to be aphrodisiacs.
Tomatoes originated in the Americas, probably from Peru where wild tomatoes are still found. By the time the Spanish arrived, tomatoes were being cultivated throughout Central and South America. They took it back to Europe where it spread and the first mention of using tomatoes in cooking appeared in a Nepalese cookbook in the 16th Century. Believe it or not, tomatoes were brought to North America by European immigrants.
Apparently, the tomato was thought to be poisonous due to the fact they caused plates and silverware made of pewter to leach lead and poison people. This may explain why John Gerard, one of the first acknowledged herbalists declared it a poison. The poor people who used wooden plates did not have this problem so tomatoes were a poor person's food until the 1800's when Italians immigrated to the United States. Furthermore, tomatoes belong to the same family as the deadly nightshade and the two plants were sometimes mixed up, again resulting in death.
In America, the attitude about tomatoes began changing around the Civil War when the Union began canning foods for their soldiers. It was found that tomatoes grew quickly and stood up to the rigors of being canned.
Tomatoes gained momentum when pizza was invented in the 1880's in Naples. The story goes that a restaurateur created the first pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil in honor of Queen Margarite's visit. The three items were chosen to mimic the colors of the Italian Flag.
One interesting fact about the tomato - it was considered a fruit until the late 1800's when the Supreme Court declared it a vegetable because as a fruit it could not be taxed but as a vegetable it could. Technically it is a fruit but most people regard it as a vegetable and this court ruling may explain that.