story

Early History

History  

The tomato probably originated in the highlands of the west coast of South America.

The tomato probably originated in the highlands of the west coast of South America. It is believed by some that the tomato wasn’t cultivated or even eaten before the Spanish arrived. Others, however, have pointed out that this is not conclusive, as many other fruits in continuous cultivation in Peru are not present in the very limited historical record. Much horticultural knowledge was lost after the arrival of Europeans.

There is a competing theory that says the tomato, like the word ‘tomato’, originated in Mexico, where one of the two apparently oldest ‘wild’ types grows.

It is entirely possible that domestication even arose in both regions independently. In any case, by some means the tomato migrated to Central America. Mayans and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking, and it was being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas, by the 16th century.

It is thought that the Pueblo people believed those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated and was encouraged in Central America. Smith states this variant is the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.

Two modern tomato cultivar groups, one represented by the Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato, the other by currant tomatoes, both originate by recent domestication of the wild tomato plants apparently native to eastern Mexico.