Emilia Mikulewicz
9 months ago

Where did tomatoes originate?

Tomatoes are not easy to grow due to their exotic origin. Knowing their origins makes it easier to understand their environmental requirements. Check where did tomatoes originate.

Where did tomatoes originate?

The origin of the tomato according to Nikolai Vavilov

Main centers of origin of vegetable crops were defined by Nikolai Vavilov. Currently, they are accepted by researchers and scientists all over the world. The researcher found that the roots of vegetables such as beans, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes originate from the center of South America. Considering that, it would include countries like Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Tomatoes, like most vegetables from the Solanaceae family, come from warm regions of South America. They were brought to Europe after 1492 by Christopher Columbus. Initially they were treated as food for the poor inhabitants of the conquered territories. In Europe, tomatoes were approached with concern and treated only as an exotic attraction with an interesting color.

The color of the first tomatoes

Scientists' findings regarding the color of the first known tomatoes are different. The latest reports say that the first tomatoes had a purple tint,

Scientists' findings regarding the color of the first known tomatoes are different. The latest reports say that the first, wild tomatoes had a purple tint. Tint was supposed to protect them from harmful UV rays.

The pigments that determine the color of the fruit, from red to purple, are anthocyanins. As a result of natural DNA mutations, the gene responsible for intense purple color lost its properties, and the tomato fruit gained the red color we know today.

Research is currently underway to obtain rich in anthocyanins fruits that will provide additional health benefits to their consumers.

The history of tomato cultivation

Edible tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) was an important part of the diet of the Maya and Aztecs, who consumed them already 2000 years ago. Native Americans called tomatoes 'xitomatos' or 'large, plump fruit', hence the word 'tomato', which was later transformed into 'tomate'.

After the tomato plants were brought to Europe, they were called 'wolf peaches'. They were believed to be poisonous, so initially they were grown only for decorative reasons, as ornamental plants. These concerns were valid because all green parts of tomato plants contain poisonous alkaloids. After the fruit has reached maturity, these substances are not available in the colored berries.

In the beginning, there was a fear of tomato poisoning in Europe. The tomato became an increasingly common part of European dishes only in the 18th century. Especially in Spanish or Italian cuisine, where there were favorable conditions for the cultivation of this thermophilic plant. Today, i.e., tomato sauce is a symbol of Italian cuisine.

The widespread consumption of tomatoes began during World War I, which was probably due to increasing hunger.

Exotic origin and cultivation

The high cultivation requirements of tomato plants are dictated by its exotic origin. Currently, tomatoes are grown as perennials in warm regions of the world.

In climates with colder temperatures, they are grown as annuals with a short growing season. Greenhouses and tunnels are built to protect plants from low temperatures. Thanks to this, the growing season of tomatoes in countries with cold climate can be extended.

Greenhouse tomato cultivation
Greenhouse tomato cultivation

Summary

The tomato is a vegetable of the nightshade family that comes from the warm regions of South America. Tomatoes we know today do not look much like their ancestors. Nowadays, cultivated tomatoes evolved as a result of natural changes and human activity. As a result of cross-breeding and natural mutations and selection, new, more attractive, tastier and sweeter varieties of tomatoes were created.

Nowadays tomatoes are definitely an essential component of the diet of people all over the world.

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