Common tomato: Lycopersicon esculentum
The origin of the word "tomato" is Latin for 'juicy wolf peach' because they were believed to evoke werewolves, and were initially believed to be poisonous (and despite being proven otherwise, some people like to hold onto the belief that they are still poisonous to avoid eating them... unless they're made into a sauce). They only became popular in the early 1820s after it was discovered they weren't poisonous, and became exceptionally popular in the 1920s when they became widely cultivated.
They were also known as love apples, in part because it was thought that, cut athwart, they resembled the heart and therefore, under the Law of Correspondences, could be used to affect that organ, especially in the matter of eros.
How period are tomatoes?
In fact, as with many New World (read North and South Americas) foods (like chocolate), it was in fact known, and utilised, if in different ways to the modern palate. If anything, the initial rarity value made it an expensive novelty.
They were known as "Golden Apples", and were for example eaten as follows:
- "The golden apple one eats in the same way as the eggplant with pepper, salt and oil, but it gives little and evil nutrition."
- (Source: "Herbario nuovo", Roma, 1585, dall'introduzione di Piero Camporesi a "La scienza in cucina e l'arte del mangiare bene" di Pellegrino Artusi)
For an excellent discussion on tomatoes and their use in the SCA period, read this excellent article available at Stefan's Florilegium: http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-VEGETABLES/16C-Tomato-art.html
If, for some bizarre reason, you want to grow tomatoes, they're apparently fairly easy to cultivate. You can readily buy seeds and seedlings from the supermarket or hardware store, and you should plant them in full sun so they get plenty of water. You may have to fight a number of tomato problems such as anthracnose, bacterial canker, black mould, curly top, early blight, root rot, powdery mildew, southern blight, infectious chlorosis virus, tomato pith necrosis, water mould, white mould.
There are also lots of insects which like to munch on your tomato plant, such as: lygus bugs, potato tuberworm (they've clearly become confused), stink bugs, fruit worms, pin worms, leafhopers, aphids, leaf miners, mites, cutworms and symphlyans. Nematodes will also have a fun time with your tomato.
Tomatoes are a nitrogen hungry crop, so planting them in a plot after a crop of legumes is common. Due to the bright red colouring of many varieties being a bird attractor many store bought tomatoes are not fully vine ripened unless they are hydroponically grown. This is the reason hydroponic tomatoes generally taste better, although netting plants can allow fruits to ripen on the vine without fear of avine menaces.
There are many tomato varieties (non-hybrid) such as: