The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit and a center of diversity in the highlands ofPeru. One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico where it was grown and consumed by Mesoamerican civilizations. The exact date of domestication is not known. The first domesticatedtomato may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to a cherry tomato, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt. The wordtomato comes from the Aztec tomatl, literally "the swelling fruit".
Many historians believe that the Spanish explorer Cortés may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europeafter he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan, now Mexico City, in 1521. Others believe Christopher Columbus, a Genoese working for the Spanish monarchy, was the first European to take back thetomato, as early as 1493. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in an herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist who named it pomod’oro, or "golden apple".
Aztecs and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking; it was cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by 500 BC. It is thought that the Pueblopeople believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated inMesoamerica and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.
After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean.They also took it to the Philippines, from where it spread to Southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent. The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean...