Globavores: Tomatoes

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Heirloom tomatoes at the Ft. Greene Farmers' Market. Anybody got a light? (Amy Eddings/WNYC)

The first part of Globavores, our 8-week series about the Columbian Exchange, kicks off today with a look at the tomato and its 500- year journey from mesoamerica across the globe. We'll speak with Andrew Smith, culinary historian and author of The Tomato in America and with chef Lidia Bastianich, whose latest cookbook is  Lidia's Favorite Recipes.

Recipe: Lidia Bastianich's Spaghetti and Pesto Trapanese

Tomato Recipes from listeners

Share your favorite tomato recipe below!


Find out where all the tomatoes shipped into the Hunts Point market in New York City come from this time of year (courtesy of The New York World).


Lidia Bastianich and Andrew Smith

Comments [9]

Jane Henderson from Shrub Oak, NY

Mr. Sullivan states there is no evidence in America that the tomatoes were considered poisonous. I refer Mr. Sullivan to the book, “At Grandmother’s Table”, edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley. The book is a collection of recipes, passed down from grandmothers to granddaughters, and the stories behind those recipes. “Reading, Writing, and Love Apples”, written by my aunt, Jane Jacobs is a memory of and tribute to her grandmother (my great-grandmother and includes a recipe, “‘Grandmother’s Fried Tomatoes with Gravy”, both of which generations of family members have enjoyed since the 1840’s.

The story behind the recipe s written by my aunt is as follows:
“Grandmother’s mother, I am told remembered well when people in Bloomsburg didn’t eat tomatoes, which were believed to be deadly poisonous. They were called “Love Apples” and were grown only as ornaments; children were strictly forbidden to eat them.
One evening, a cousin of my great-grandmother’s arrived from New Jersey on horseback and, upon seeing a bowl of love-apples adorning the parlor, declared them to be edible! While the family watched in consternation, he sliced one and ate it with sugar and cream. When he was observed to be alive and well the next morning, the news spread quickly and the town took to inventing and trading tomatoes recipes. “

Oct. 04 2012 01:47 PM
Alex Amerman from Brooklyn

This comment is in response to the uncertainty about how and by whom tomatoes were introduced to the United States. I was always told that tomatoes were introduced to the U.S. in 1820 by my paternal grandmother's great grandfather, David Landreth. The D. Landreth Seed Company was established in Philadelphia in 1784 and catered to clients including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Bonaparte.

From a Landreth Seed Company brochure:

"In 1798, [Landreth] introduced the Zinnia to the United States from Mexico. In 1811, he introduced the first truly white potato. Prior to this introduction, potatoes had been yellow. In 1820, he introduced the tomato, known then as The Love Apple, and later perfected the first variety of yellow tomato." David Landreth also apparently founded the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, and, while the majority of his company was sold to Burpee long ago, the Landreth Seed Company is still in operation, claiming to be the fifth oldest corporation in the country.

I hope this is helpful (and true!) I would be happy to provide more information if needed. I would also be delighted to hear any thoughts or feedback from Mr. Smith, Ms. Bastianich, or anyone else regarding David Landreth and the introduction of the tomato.

Oct. 03 2012 02:50 PM

I sensed your guest could not even conceive the possibility that pasta came to italy via the mid east[arabs]. His stunned monentary silence when Lydia suggested it,followed by his assertion that it originated in england?!,adds credence to the belief that even history is really politics. Lydia was not gonna have any part of this-if we're at war in those countries then we can't say pasta came from there!

Oct. 03 2012 02:21 PM

Please ask Ms. Bastianich how many lawsuits it's going to take to keep her, her son and his clown partner, Batali from ripping off their waitstaffs to the tune of MILLIONS of dollars??

These folks are disgusting!

Oct. 03 2012 12:49 PM
Robert from NYC

Naked pasta is adored by all italians. Always eat at least one forkful before you sauce the rest of it. Well all lined up for our forkful of "white spaghetti" as kids.

Oct. 03 2012 12:49 PM
Shannon from Brooklyn

I grew up in a small town- Reynoldsburg, Ohio. It is called "birthplace of the tomato." When I told my Italian friend here in NYC they laughed at me. I know it has something to do with Alexander Livingston. I am wondering where this town fits in tomato history in US...

Oct. 03 2012 12:48 PM
Robert from MYC

Very italian to have a little green in a salad tomato. BTW also good olive oil EV with oregano and black pepper let it sit for a while and mmmm squisito. MY point not only basil but also a good oregano on fresh raw (beefsteak) tomatoe does the job.

Oct. 03 2012 12:43 PM

Please ask Lydia to discuss the different ways Italians can sauce every summer harvest. Between cooking huge amounts for hours to canning them cold and crushed. We make 100 jars every year and so do a lot of our family friends!

Oct. 03 2012 12:25 PM
Eric Zalis from Harding

In your opinion, "Why has the tomato become an international component of so many dishes, cuisines, and cultures?"

Oct. 03 2012 12:21 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.