Click HERE to read Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Tomatoes" ("Oda al Tomate")

"By the lamplit stall
I loitered,
my eyes
On colours
ripe and rich
for the heart's desire--
redder than Krakatoa's

--Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

"An accident happened
to my brother Jim
When somebody threw
a tomato at him--
Tomatoes are juicy
and don't hurt the skin,
But this one was specially
packed in a tin

"A cooked tomato
is like
a cooked oyster--

--Andre Simon (1938)

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(Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

The tomato, indigenous to the Andes, was domesticated in Mexico. Its name, in fact, derives from the Nahuatl language. Early explorers in Mexico discovered the tomato and brought it back to Europe after the Conquest, around 1523. At the time, it was probably yellow in color, for when it was brought to Europe, the Italians called it pomo d'oro, apple of gold. The French misheard the term as pomo d'amore, or love apple, and so passed the fruit and the term to the English towards the end of the 16th century.

As a result of life imitating art, the tomato became known as a powerful aphrodisiac--and is assumed by many to be the true "apple" that Eve offered to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

For a long time, it was used only as an ornamental plant. Perhaps because it is a member of the deadly nightshade family, the idea persists that the tomato is poisonous (its foliage, in fact, is poisonous), and even in the 18th century its Latin name lycopersicon esculentum reflected the superstition--translated as "edible wolf's peach."

As late as the early 19th century, American artist Fitz Hugh Lane believed he was semi-paralyzed because he had eaten a "Peru apple" as a child--the disease of polio not being understood at the time.

Interestingly, the highest concentration of vitamin C in the fruit is found in the jelly-like material surrounding the seeds, which is made up of storage parenchyma cells from the placenta.