If the Spaniards of the 15th century weren’t so determined to find India with its fabled plantations of black pepper, the rest of Europe would have languished in pale pasta sauces.
Tomatl (as it was called by the native peoples of Mesoamerica) was unknown to the Old World… until Spanish explorers during the Age of Discovery encountered chocolate, chili, avocados, tomatoes, and other good food in the New World. Aztecs used the small and yellow-to-red colored fruits of the plant in their cooking and in fresh sauces.
The earliest discussion of the tomato plant in Europe is dated 1544; it is not certain whether Cristoforo Colombo first saw them in his voyage of 1492, or Hernando Cortez in 1521. Of this we are sure: Spain distributed the tomato to its colonies in the Caribbean and to the Philippines, as well as to other countries in Europe, from where cultivation spread, making it the most popular vegetable in the world.
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Tomatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Because the variety first seen in Italy had a yellow color, they called it pomodoro (pomo d’oro), which means “fruit of gold.”