Most Misunderstood Fruit in the World:
The Wolf Peach
Today I would like to take you on a journey to a unique place where
dense jungles meet white sandy beaches and active volcanoes rise up
out of cloud forests filled with waterfalls, toucans, and wild monkeys.
A country filled with a laid-back culture, friendly atmosphere, and
sleepy little towns. And all of this surrounded by an ocean filled with
an abundance of aquatic life but best known for its sea turtles. This
is where Cortez came ashore and first discovered the wolf peach in the
year 1519, in the gardens of Montezuma in Costa Rica. He took its seeds
back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but
It is thought the first variety to reach Europe was yellow in color,
since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi doro,
meaning yellow apples. The French referred to the them as pommes
damour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating
aphrodisiacal properties. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate
them outside South America. The wolf peach today is referred to as the
wonderful but mysterious tomato. The tomato originated high in the Andes
mountains. It was initially cultivated by Aztecs and Incas as early
as 700 A.D.
I consider the wolf peach so misunderstood? The wolf peach, love apple,
or devil apple, as it is sometimes called, is a perennial plant treated
like an annual, thought to be either poisonous or medicinal, and debated
on whether it is a fruit or a vegetable (it has been called both). It
has over 4,000 varieties and many shapes and colors. Botanists claim
that a fruit is any fleshy material that covers a seed or seeds, while
a horticulturist would claim that the tomato is a vegetable plant. Until
the late 1800s the tomato was classified as a fruit to avoid taxation,
but this was changed after a Supreme Court ruling that the tomato is
a vegetable and should be taxed accordingly. Today the tomato is the
most popular vegetable in America and enjoyed by millions all over the
northern Europe, tomatoes were considered to be poisonous. Rich people
often had plates and flatware made of pewter, and the acid in the tomatoes
would leach out the lead in the pewter, resulting in lead poisoning
and death. Poor people, who ate from plates made of wood, didnt
get sick or die, so tomatoes became a poor mans food.
Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, NJ, brought the tomato home to America
from abroad in 1808. As the story is told, it was Johnson who, on September
26, 1820, once and for all proved tomatoes non-poisonous and safe for
consumption. He stood on the steps of the Salem courthouse and bravely
consumed an entire bushel of tomatoes without keeling over or suffering
any ill effects whatsoever. His grandstanding attracted a crowd of over
2,000 people who were certain he was committing public suicide. This
would have been the first reality TV show if they had had television
back then. The local firemens band even played a mournful song,
adding to the perceived morbid display of courage. Before consuming
the bushel of tomatoes, Johnson said, The time will come when
this luscious, scarlet apple... will form the foundation of a great
garden industry, and will be... eaten, and enjoyed as an edible food...
and to help speed that enlightened day, to prove that it will not strike
you dead I am going to eat one right now!
Johnsons physician, Dr. James Van Meter, supposedly warned that
The foolish colonel will foam and froth at the mouth and double
over with appendicitis, and with all that oxalic acid, in one dose,
he would be dead.
grandstanding garnered a lot of attention, and North Americas
love affair with the tomato was off and running.
as good health is concerned, tomatoes are outstanding because they contain
the antioxidant lycopene, noted for its ability to reduce the risk of
prostate cancer in men who consume 10 servings a week. Tomatoes also
contain vitamin C and carotenoids, beta carotene being one of the most
familiar, which are antioxidants. These offer protection from free radicals
that cause premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. Loaded
with antioxidants and high in potassium, tomatoes are one of the healthiest
vegetables around. Theyre also low in calories: about
35 for a medium tomato.
the tomato varieties, I would recommend you try the heirloom varieties.
They are not rubbery like the long-lasting store-bought tomatoes and
now are becoming more available. They have incredible taste and hundreds
of shapes and colors. With names like Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Aunt
Rubys German Green, Banana Legs, Box Car Willie, Nebraska Wedding,
Indian Moon, and Tartor of Mongolstan, you have a whole new world to
choose from. I love Brandywine and Cherokee Purple.
that jar of mayonnaise, bake that homemade bread, slice that Cherokee
Purple, shred that lettuce, add a touch of salt, and enjoy a little
bit of heaven on Earth.
Paul, along with his wife Calla, owns Uncle Pauls
European Style Open Air Produce Market,
2310 SE Hawthorne,
503-484-8612 or visit www.unclepaulsproduce.com.