Every year I add a page on period vegetables to our website here at Colonial Williamsburg that I encourage all to visit. This year I am looking at the tomato, pepper and eggplant which has got me looking at the pomme d'amour mystery.
In 1554 Matthioli enlarges his commentary on Dioscorides and gives the Italian name for mala aurea, which he uses in the 1544 edition, as pomi dÂoro, supposedly referring to the golden color of the fruit. This is confusing in that all descriptions of the tomato after this time, that I can find, give red as its color.
It is possible that pomi d'oro was borrowed from the Spanish pome dei Moro (fruit of the Moors). As the Moors were pushed out of Granada, their last strong hold on the Iberian Peninsula, in 1493 it is unlikely that this name was ever applied to the tomato and probably described the eggplant.
The French pomme dÂamour is possibly a corruption of pome dei Moro but more likely in reference to its supposed aphrodisiac qualities originating with Matthioli as he classes it with the mandrake.
However, I have never found an English reference to the tomatoe as an aphrodisiac and am wondering, was the first tomato in Europe really a yellow variety, as unlikely as that seems...where do we get pomme d'amour...Carolyn, are you out there?