Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

The tomato, Solanum lycopersicum or, no longer acceptably, Lycopersicon esculentum, is an American plant which bears the familiar fruits (perceived as a vegetable because of their main culinary uses), and which is now grown and consumed worldwide. The plant is a member of the family Solanaceae and therefore a relation of the New World capsicum peppers and potato, and of the Old World aubergine. The presence of nightshades in the family may have made people cautious about using newly discovered members of it. This did not apply to capsicum peppers, since they were seen as providing a valuable new spice and spread like wildfire. The aubergine and the potato, however, were received with considerable reserve in W. Europe; and the same was true of the tomato.