Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lycopersicon Esculentum,

I made tuna salad sandwiches for supper tonight. That's not particularly impressive but the tomatoes we added to them were out of this world. We got them early this morning at the Rincon Valley Farmers Market.

We also found some tender baby squash, crook neck , pattipan ,and zucchini. Geezer was also amazed at the size of some yams so we bought just one which when baked should be enough for both of us.

But back to the tomatoes. Organic heritage tomatoes are like nothing else in the world. Certainly not anything like those tasteless little orbs they sell at the super markets these days. Mom used to grow Beefsteak tomatoes when we were kids and we would get a thrill out of seeing how many sandwiches we could make from just one of those huge fruits.

Our neighbor, Ed Wiseman, introduced me to the most delicious treat when I was about 10 years old and its still my favorite way to eat a tomato.

Spread cream cheese generously on a slice of pumpernickel bread; top with a very thick slice of tomato, warm from the garden, a bit of salt and pepper and a paper thin slice of onion. No top. I'd never had a sandwich with only one piece of bread before that day. I drove my Mother crazy making sure the Freihofers bread man delivered pumpernickel bread the rest of the summer. This gets pretty messy for a kid but it is so worth it!

Tomatoes have had an interesting history. First bred in South America, they were brought to Southern Europe by Spanish explorers. In Northern Europe and Britain, they were cultivated, at first, simply as an ornamental. Since they were related to deadly nightshade they were thought to be poisonous.

The Germans called them Wolfpeaches and it was believed that witches used them to produce werewolves. Indeed the scientific Latin name for tomatoes translates literally to "edible wolf peaches".

Superstition abounds in the cultivation and uses of these fruits. Placing a large tomato on the windowsill will ward off evil spirits. Putting one over the hearth will insure prosperity. If you need that prosperity faster, just place a tomato peel over the front door and you'll get money within four days. (and you don't have to forward it to anybody else either!)

Called Pomme d'Amor by the French, Sir Walter Raleigh is supposed to have presented one to Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen as an easily suggestive gift. Because of their alleged aphrodisiac properties, there were places in this country where young women were not allowed to eat the "Love Apples" until after marriage to prevent them from becoming promiscuous.

Once refused by the general populous in America they were served at many more enlightened tables like Thomas Jefferson's. Finally, a man who had been growing them on his own property for years and trying to convince people they were safe decided to go dramatic.

Man Who Ate Wolf Peaches
By: Doane R. Hoag

Salem, Mass., Sept. 28, 1820 ‑ To the surprise of everyone in this city, Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson is still alive. Several weeks ago Johnson, whom many considered to be totally bereft of his senses, announced that at high noon on Tuesday he would personally mount the steps of the county courthouse and, in full view of all interested parties, eat a wolf peach.

Now everyone knew that the wolf peach was deadly poison. Dr. James Van Meeter warned that if the colonel actually went through with his insane proposal, he would almost instantly begin to froth and foam at the mouth and double over with intense abdominal cramps which would terminate within minutes in his death.

"He's either an eccentric old fool who's going to kill himself, or he's just bluffing," people decided. In all likelihood, they thought, it was just a put‑on, and the colonel wouldn't show up at all. Nevertheless, as the noon hour drew near last Tuesday, an immense crowd of more than 2,000 persons gathered in front of the courthouse. Noon arrived. No Col. Johnson. People began to hoot and jeer. But at 15 minutes past the hour, who should appear but the colonel himself.

Dressed as usual in a black suit with white ruffled blouse, black shoes, black gloves, and a three‑cornered hat, he mounted the steps of the courthouse and faced the crowd. On his arm was a basket of wolf peaches which he had grown on his own property.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "for many years I have been trying to convince you that the much maligned wolf peach ‑ Solanum Lycopersicum is not a poisonous plant but a delicious and highly nutritious fruit which deserves a place on every table. "Having been unable to convince you by argument, I shall now attempt to do it by example. If I am right, I will live. If I am wrong, I will die. My friends, I shall now eat the wolf peach!"

With this, he reached into the basket, drew out one of the scarlet colored wolf peaches, and put it to his lips. Some were skeptical, suspecting it was only a trick, that he wouldn't actually eat it. But he did. Those close enough to him could see clearly that he actually took a large bit out of the fruit, chewed it up, and swallowed it. People gasped with horror. A woman fainted. Everyone watched to see Johnson begin to froth at the mouth and double over with cramps. He did neither.

It is now Friday, and Johnson is still alive and well. People around here have decided to start planting wolf peaches in their own gardens, for they really are a great delicacy. But they have stopped calling them wolf peaches. Tomatoes sounds much better.

Reprinted with permission of Atlanta Journal/Constitution

Okay, so there you have it, Another hero- Good old Col. Bob Johnson: the man brave enough to eat a tomato!

See ya down the road,


~loneduck~ said...

you find the weirdest stuff lol now what about that first oyster?

Geezerguy said...

Now I know why you wanted pumpernickel today. Great Wolf Peaches, by the way. I'm looking forward to helping you finish them.

Old Newsie said...

Such amazing research. I have been eating tomatoes lately but don't kow if they are Wolf style. Barbara brings them. Maybe next Saturday we'll find some at the downtown farmers' market which just went into business yesterday.