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50 Shades of Night: A Surprisingly Deep Dive on Tomatoes

I’d like to take a moment of your time, to talk about Tomatoes. I would also like to partially blame Rebecca May Johnson for even making me think about tomatoes for any length of time myself (but you should absolutely check out her book “Small Fires”, it’s extremely good and will make you painfully hungry).

No one looks certain of the exact date that the edible berries of the tomato plant (what) were first domestically grown, but there seems to be some evidence of this around the year 500 BC so let’s go with that. Forget the Aztec stereotypes you’ve gleaned through our weird education system and imagine instead, a people that cultivates dozens of amazing varieties of the humble tomato in Mesoamerica.

The Spanish turned up in 1521 and snuffled a small yellow tomato into Europe from what is now known as Mexico City. The Spanish then colonised lots of places - spreading the tomato to The Caribbean, the Philippines and South East Asia along the way. Cultivation across Europe became more widespread in the 1540’s but weren’t grown in Britain until the 1590’s.

The earliest recorded growth of Tomato in the US is in North America in 1710, but used more as a decorative plant than as foodstuff. They may have been put off by the whole ‘tomatoes are fucking poisonous mate’ thing from the UK at the time…

Otherwise known as the “poison apple”, there was a firm belief in the late 1700’s that tomatoes would end you. As a part of the nightshade family, not to be confused with their big, sexy, goth sister - ‘Deadly’, Tomatoes do contain a very small amount of toxic substances called solanine and tomatine (real original guys). Green tomatoes have a higher concentration of this stuff and ingesting larger quantities may give you some pretty nasty gut rot - but it’s unlikely to KILL. Also a greenie that often means you’ve found an unripe tomato so just, leave those alone.

Finding out about Robert Johnson of New Jersey made me laugh out loud. This brave soul announced to the world in 1820 that he was going to PUBLICLY EAT A TOMATO and people came from miles around to watch him devour it and die. He obviously lived, much to their disappointment and dismay, I’d imagine.

The poison party really got started because of the wealthy (sigh). For 200 years, many people in ‘civilised’ society ate their tomato laden dinners from elaborate pewter plates and shortly after, dropped dead. It is theorised, that tomato juice and pewter creates a gnarly chemical reaction, that may have resulted in a deadly lead based cocktail that went more or less undetected. Poor tomatoes got the bad rep and everyone in countries that didn’t fart about with pewter plates continued developing cool shit with them like modern pizza - created in Naples around 1860.

Here’s another cool as hell thing about tomatoes - their botanical name, Lycopersicon Esculentum, means EDIBLE WOLF PEACH (which needs to be the name of my first album). They were once considered to be an aphrodisiac and lots of the romantic languages gave them names that translate to ‘apple of love’ or ‘apple of paradise’. The Greeks called it a ‘Pomadora’ or ‘Golden apple’ and associated them with the golden apples of Hera. If people weren’t worried about their teeth falling out and their organs failing after one tangy bite, they were convinced that the wet, fertile insides dripping from the corners of their hungry mouths were going to get them uncontrollably hot and heavy.

Due to the blindingly sexy nature of this fruit, magical associations are heavily linked with Venus, Aphrodite and Hera. Putting tomato in your Valentine’s dinner is said to guarantee a spicier night or to spark some creativity if you’re doing Valentine dining for one. They are an excellent addition to replenishing soups and stews as they are full of vitamin C and B-Carotene as well as a load of other good stuff. A tomato on the mantelpiece is said to protect your home from ill-intent. I read this in a few different sources but no one stipulated the state of the tomato…I’m going to assume whole. Advice does mention replacing your protective tomato every 3 days, for obvious reasons.

(If it tickles your metaphorical pickle, you can have a hunt for the more baneful magicked potential of tomatoes but that’s not really my vibe).

Mostly, I would add tomato to a menu if I wanted to give the over-dinner chats a romantic edge, or if someone I really like (RARE) is feeling depleted, run down or attacked. My Dutch oven tomato soup recipe is much more suited to the latter than the former and includes lots of black pepper; to banish the ‘bads’, oregano; for protection and restorative properties, garlic; an immune

systems best friend and a dash of cayenne pepper to get the nastiness out of their system.

For the more romantic tomato meal, I might look to a balsamic vinegar, strawberry and tomato salad with sexy pecan nuts, fresh basil and pink pepper. Oo or in winter, a rich tomato and red wine sauce over baked gnocchi with a tiny bit of 80%+ chocolate mixed in. Chef’s kiss. God I’m hungry. God I love food.

You can find the recipe for my bloody lovely roasted tomato and garlic soup on my Patreon, along with a bunch of cool Tarot stuff and witchy calendar treats. Here’s the link:

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