Tomato (or Love Apple)

Though only of recent introduction as a common vegetable in this

country, and though grown chiefly [568] under glass for the table in

England, yet the Tomato is so abundantly imported, and so

extensively used by all classes now-a-days throughout the British

Isles that it may fairly take consideration for whatever claims it can

advance as a curative Simple. Imported early in the present century

from South America it rem
ined for a while an exclusive luxury

produced for the rich like pine apples and melons. But gradually

since then the Tomato has steadily acquired an increasing

popularity, and now large crops of the profitable fruit are brought

from Bordeaux and the Channel Islands, to meet the demands of our

English markets. Much of the favour which has become attached to

this ruddy, polished, attractive-looking fruit is due to a widespread

impression that it is good for the liver, and a preventive of

biliousness. Nevertheless, rumours have also gone abroad that

habitual Tomato-eaters are especially liable to cancerous disease in

this, or that organ.

Belonging to the Solanums the Tomato (Lycopersicum) is a plant

of Mexican origin. Its brilliant fruit was first known as Mala

oethiopica, or the Apples of the Moors, and bearing the Italian

designation Pomi dei Mori. This name was presently corrupted in

the French to Pommes d'amour; and thence in English to the

epithet Love Apples, a perversion which shows by what curious

methods primary names may become incongruously changed. They

are also called Gold Apples from their bright yellow colour before

getting ripe. The term Lycopersicum signifies a wolf's peach,

because some parts of the plant are thought to excite animal


The best fruit is supposed to grow within sight, or smell of the sea.

It needs plenty of sunlight and heat. The quicker it is produced the

fewer will be the seeds discoverable in its pulp.

[568] Green when young, Tomatoes acquire a bright yellow hue

before reaching maturity, and when ripe they are smooth, shining,

furrowed, and of a handsome red.

Chemically this Love Apple contains citric and malic acids: and it

further possesses oxalic acid, or oxalate of potash, in common with

the Sorrel of our fields, and the Rhubarb of our kitchen gardens. On

which account each of this vegetable triad is ill suited for gouty

constitutions disposed to the formation of irritating oxalate of lime

in the blood. With such persons a single indulgence in Tomatoes,

particularly when eaten raw, may provoke a sharp attack of gout.

Otherwise there are special reasons for supposing the Tomato to be

a wholesome fruit of remarkable purifying value.

Dr. King Chambers classifies it among remedies against scurvy,

telling us that Tomatoes mixed with brown bread make a capital

sauce for costive persons. And the fruit owns a singular property in

connection with diseases of plants, suggesting its probable worth as

protective against bacterial germs, and microbes of disease in our

bodies when it is taken as food, or medicinally. If a Tomato shrub

be uprooted at the end of the summer, and allowed to wither on the

bough of a fruit tree, or if it be burnt beneath the fruit tree, it

will not only kill any blight which may be present, but will also

preserve the tree against any future invasion by blight. The hostility

thus evinced by the plant to low organisms is due to the presence of

sulphur, which the Tomato shrub largely contains, and which is

rendered up in an active state by decay, or by burning. Now

remembering that digestion likewise splits up the Tomato into its

chemical constituents, and releases its sulphur within us, we may

fairly assume that persons [570] who eat Tomatoes habitually are

likely to have a particular immunity from bacterial and putrefactive


Wherefore it is altogether improbable that Tomatoes will engender

cancer, which is essentially a disease of vitiated blood, and of

degenerate cell tissue. Possibly the old exploded doctrine of

signatures may have suggested, or started this accusation against the

maligned, though unguarded Tomato: for it cannot be denied the

guileless fruit bears a nodulated tumour-like appearance, whilst

showing, when cut, an aspect of red raw morbid fleshy structure

strangely resembling cancerous disease.

Vegetarians who eat Tomatoes constantly and freely claim that

cancer is a disease almost unknown among their ranks; but an

Italian doctor writing from Rome gives it as the experience of

himself and his medical brethren that cancer is as common in Italy

and Sicily among vegetarians as with mixed eaters. Most of our

American cousins, who are the enterprising fathers of this medicinal

fruit, persuade themselves that they are never in perfect health

except during the Tomato season. And with us the ruddy Solanum

has obtained a wide popularity not simply at table as a tasty cooling

sallet, or an appetising stew, but essentially as a supposed

antibilious purifier of the blood. When uncooked it contains a

notable quantity of Solanin, and it would be dangerous to let

animals drink water in which the plant had been boiled. The Staff of

the Cancer Hospital at Brompton have emphatically declared they

see no ground whatever for supposing that the eating of Tomatoes

predisposes to cancer.

Nevertheless some country people in the remote American States

attribute cancer to an excessively free use of the wild uncultivated

tomato as food.

[571] The first mention of this fruit by the London Horticultural

Society occurred in 1818.

Chemically in addition to the acids already named the Tomato

contains a volatile oil, a brown resinous extractive matter very

fragrant, a vegeto-mineral matter, muco-saccharin, some salts, and

in all probability an alkaloid. The whole plant smells unpleasantly,

and its juices when subjected to heat by the action of fire emit a

vapour so powerful as to provoke vertigo and vomiting.

The specific principles furnished by the Tomato will, when

concentrated, produce, if taken medicinally, effects very similar

to those brought about by taking mercurial salts, viz., an

ulcerative-state of the mouth, with a profuse flow of saliva, and

with excessive stimulation of the liver: peevishness also on the

following day, with a depressing backache in men, suggesting

paralysis, and with a profuse fluor albus in women. When given

in moderation as food, or as physic, the fruit will remedy

this chain of symptoms.

By reason of its efficacy in promoting an increased flow of bile if

judiciously taken, the Tomato bears the name in America of

Vegetable Mercury, and it has almost superseded calomel there as a

biliary medicinal provocative. Dr. Bennett declares the Tomato to

be the most useful and the least harmful of all known medicines for

correcting derangements of the liver. He prepares a chemical extract

of the fruit and plant which will, he feels assured, depose calomel

for the future.

Across the Atlantic an officinal tincture is made from the Tomato

for curative purposes by treating the apples, and the bruised fresh

plant with alcohol, and letting this stand for eight days before it

is filtered and strained.

A teaspoonful of the tincture is a sufficient dose with one or two

tablespoonfuls of cold water, three times in the day.

[572] The fluid extract made from the plant is curative of any

ulcerative soreness within the mouth, such as nurses' sore mouth, or

canker. It should be given internally, and applied locally to the

sore parts.

Spaniards and Italians eat Tomatoes with pepper and oil. We take

them as a salad, or stewed with butter, after slicing and stuffing

them with bread crumb, and a spice of garlic.

The green Tomato makes a good pickle, and in its unripe state is

esteemed an excellent sauce with rich roast pork, or goose. The fruit

when cooked no longer exercises active medicinal effects, as its

volatile principles have now become dispelled through heat.

By the late Mr. Shirley Hibberd, who was a good naturalist, it was

asserted with seeming veracity that the cannibal inhabitants of the

Fiji Islands hold in high repute a native Tomato which is named by

them the Solanum anthropophagorutm, and which they eat, par

excellence, with Cold Missionary. Nearer home a worthy dame

has been known with pious aspirations to enquire at the stationer's

for Foxe's book of To-Martyrs.

Chops and Tomato sauce were ordered from Mrs. Bardell, in

Pickwick's famous letter. Gentlemen! says Serjeant Buzfuz, in his

address to the jury, What does this mean? But he missed a point in

not going on to add--I need not tell you, gentlemen, the popular

name for the Tomato is love apple! Is it not manifest, therefore,

what the base deceiver intended?

A cucumber in early spring

Might please a sated Caesar,

Rapture asparagus can bring,

And dearer still green peas are:

Oh! far and wide, where mushrooms hide,

I'll search, as wide and far too

For watercress; but all their pride

Must stoop to thee,--Tomato!