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Lycopersicon esculentum is the poster child of the Columbian Exchange. Before Columbus, Europe had no tomatoes and therefore pizzas were all cheesy white. Pasta sauce as we know it was impossible. And on and on. Although the Andes most likely is the tomato’s home ground, it came to Europe first from Mexico. The word “tomato” derives from Nahuatl.

For a while, in the modern history of the tomato in the West, taxonomy was destiny. As a member of the deadly nightshade family, the Solanaceae, tomatoes were shunned as poisonous. This prejudice persisted well into the nineteenth century and even later in some places, including the rural U.S.

More recently, now that the tomato is mass-produced in low-quality strains that resist damage during transit, it is possible to buy whole raw “fresh” tomatoes in any month. Although anyone who would purchase such an abomination should be an object of pity, no one forces anyone to buy “fresh” tomatoes out of season. During the season, the glut of wonderful local tomatoes should restore even the most ardent Slow Fooder’s faith in the market.

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