Do you think tomatoes are deadly or wicked?

Sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor, tomatoes are the perfect summer food.

People, cultures and chefs, around the world, LOVE them.

But, this wasn’t always the case.

In the 16th Century, the Puritans and other religious groups reviled tomatoes. They were considered poisonous and associated with witchcraft and whoring.[1]

Imagine that?

The tomato is a member of the Solanaceae family that is related to the deadly nightshades belladonna, mandrake, henbane and angel’s trumpet. Beyond stoking lewd and lascivious passions, it was thought that because they were nightshade foods, tomatoes would create hallucinations and death.

But, have no fear!

You won’t die or hallucinate from eating a tomato. Unless, of course, you eat tomatoes on a pewter plate that is high in lead. Which is what happened to the rich Aristocrats.

The acid in the tomato leached the lead from their plates and wreaked havoc on the upper classes physical and mental health. The innocent juicy little tart, I mean tomato, got the blame. But it was actually the fancy plates they were eating off of that killed them.[2]

For the ancient Mayans, on the other hand, tomatoes were believed to increase red blood and they ate them quite often. I’d say this was a pretty smart culture. They understood the benefits of eating this food without fearing it.

Scientifically, we know that tomatoes are rich in vitamin A and C, and antioxidants like lycopene that reduce the risk of cancer.

But, I’m not a science-y kind of gal, so I wouldn’t suggest you eat them for their micronutrients. Rather, I recommend eating them for their hydrating qualities, plump lusciousness, and seasonality.

That means, eat tomatoes when they are naturally most abundant in your environment, and according to your own physiology.

Tomatoes require full sunlight and dryer soil to thrive. These plants rot in wet soil. Also, good air circulation is essential to prevent fungal diseases on this plant.

With that being said, here’s something to think about…

Someone that is suffering with a damp condition according to ancient medicine (heavy limbs, sluggishness, bloating/distention, edema, rheumatoid arthritis, and a soggy depression), eating excessive or daily amounts of tomatoes may not be the best choice.

For someone that is feeling hot and dry (dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth, osteoarthritis, and menopause symptoms, etc.) tomatoes could be ideal.

It’s up to you and your preventative health practitioner to discover which are the best foods for your body, in the environment where you live, and how often to eat them.

Right now, it’s summer in the Northeastern United States and tomatoes are in the height of their growing season. They are cooling, refreshing and hydrating, and I simply love them!

Here are some seductively sensuous and wonderfully wicked tomato salads for you to enjoy.

Have a delicious summer!

[1] A Curious History of Vegetables by Wolf D. Storl, North Atlantic Books 2016, pgs 261-270