Folklore Thursday: Tomato Magic

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I have espoused my love for tomatoes before. However, they haven’t always been considered an edible treat. They were long considered to be poisonous – or likely to make your teeth fall out if you ate them

Originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas back in 700AD (and named the tomatl), the word tomato was first coined in the 17th century, after the fruit spread to Europe.


Rather than the red tomatoes we are familiar with, early tomatoes were yellow, and thus known as ‘pomi d’oro’ – apples of gold (along with ‘love apples’ – and they were used in love spells). Some people even considered the tomato to be the original forbidden fruit, and feared eating them would lead to.uncontrollable lust; Puttanesca sauce is tomato-based, showing there are still moral judgements made about tomatoes today.

The tomato was deemed the food choice of French revolutionaries, both because of its colour and because it was unpopular with the aristocracy. Eating tomatoes became a revolutionary act.

Tomatoes have long been linked to magic, due to being part of the Deadly Nightshade family. As Deadly Nightshade could cause hallucinations – and death – people associated it with witches. German folklore claimed witches conjured werewolves – leading to the name, ‘wolf peach’for the tomato.

A tomato on your mantlepiece was reputed to protect your home. Tomatoes were also used in spells to bring prosperity, as well as love. Who knew minestrone could be so good for you?

Health Benefits


Science agrees that the tomato can be beneficial. They are full of minerals and antioxidants including vitamins C and E, B-carotene, lycopene, lutein and flavonoids such as quercetin. Studies have found tomatoes can be beneficial for prevention of some cancers, as well as having cardiovascular benefits. Cooking them in olive oil is thought to be particularly good for you.

So, whether you want love, money or good health, a tomato is what you need. And tomatoes are also pretty cheap and tasty too.

For more stories and folk tales, check out #FolkloreThursday on Twitter each week. It’s a must for storytelling and myth fans.

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