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Native American tomatoes?

Posted by disneynut1977 5A Syracuse NY (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 5, 08 at 21:12

Can anybody help me with finding tomato strains from Native American tribes? I know about the Cherokee Strain's. What else is out there? Also where could I find a source of seeds for what you recommend?

Thanks
Melissa


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Native American tomatoes?

There are several sources. Try tomato growers dot com. Far from the largest list thou very useful.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Melissa, without plowing thru the maybe 4,000 varieties listed in the SSE YEarbooks for SSE members, off hand I can't think of any that have been DOCUMENTED as coming from a specific tribe.

Cherokee Purple and Indian Stripe are suggested as being Indian in origin, but no documantation back to an original source.

Dr. Wyche was introduced by Dr. Wyche of OK who was Cherokee but it isn't at all clear that the vcariety is Cherokee in origin.

Manyel, which is said to mean "many moons" is allegedly Indian in origin but no proof at all.

I took a look at Nativeseeds/Search but all that pops up is Punta Banda, discussed here last week or so and Cuidad Victoria and Texas Wild, but again no association at all with a Native American tribe.

The various agrarian oriented tribes did not have a cuisine based on tomatoes so I think that's why it's hard to find same.

it would be different if looking for corns and squash and beans, for instance.

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Carolyn, thank you so much for looking.

Melissa


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by jll0306 9/ Sunset 18/High De (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 16, 08 at 13:58

Melissa, just in case you are still looking, I found this one while browsing the Tomatofest Site:

Indian Moon

A Navajo heirloom. Good production of beautiful, blemish free, medium-sized, 6-8 oz., golden-globed, meaty and flavorful fruit

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomatofest


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Amerindians, at least the ones in the U.S., are very much like the Amish in America with regard to "heirloom" tomatoes. Bottom line, they are growing and have grown various varieties of tomatoes since those tomatoes were introduced into the market by European-American plant breeders and seed vendors.

What that means is that if you want to grow a tomato that has a history of being grown by a Native North American Indian, or a U.S. resident Amish person for that matter, you will be growing a tomato that someone back a ways originally obtained from commercial seed whether that seed was open pollinated or hybrid.

The names of the tomatoes have been changed to protect the ambivalence.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Melissa :

As I am also interested in your topic, and am always looking for these varietys, I will try and post when I find out something.
Being an honorary warrior, of Irish descent, (grin) I have ties to the Arapahoe, and Lakota Souix (no direct or distant lineage at all)
I hope to find time to research, not likely for a while as I am putting a lot of time in on a new power plant in NW Missouri.

Tom


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Indian Moon

****

And speaking of Bill's ambivalence I decided to go back and see what was said about Indian Moon in the SSE Yearbook b/c I once listed it as well.

I got seeds from Joe Bratka in 1992 and it was he who represented it as a Navajo heirloom. That was early in my heirloom tomato career and I never questioned his source or documentation. I doubt that there was any at all.

I listed it myself with the same representation and others who got it from me did the same and through all these years it's been represented as a Navajo heirloom and yet there's no documentation to say that it is.

Same for the variety Manyel, which was also from Joe Bratka.
Now for that one I tried to track down the words "many moons" that came with it by contacting a number of people and no one knew of those words re any Native Indian language that they were familiar with/

In general the indigenous agrarian tribes did not have a tomato based cuisine and thus I think it's much harder to document origin of tomatoes than it is beans, or corns or squash for instance.

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Maybe someone can check with the wandering spirit of the late great Crazy Horse to see if he enjoyed a honkin' big slice of tomato on his buffalo burgers.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by cabrita 9b & 10a (21 & 23) (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 17, 08 at 19:29

Tomatoes are native American, but not from north America. They were brought to Europe with Colombus, in Italy they were called pomo d'oro (golden apples), they also became an intricate part of the cuisine in Spain and people there are surprised to find out they did not exist in Europe before the early 1500 if not later (I do not remember which of Colombus 3 voyages brought tomatoes to Europe I think the 3rd?).

I believe they come from what is now Mexico, and they are called tomates or jitomates, sometimes they call tomates the fruit that other folks call tomatillos, so it can be confusing. If you broaden you search to include the south or central American part of Native Americans, and search perhaps in spanish, they were the ones that grew the original tomatoes. I think tomate is from tomatl, a Nauhatl word (from the Aztecs). I can try a search in Spanish later when I have some more time, if we have to do it in Nauhatl then we are out of luck. Also, I am not sure if there are seed saving organizations in Mexico but I will try to find out. Perhaps Carolyn knows this. If they do exist and you guys just need a translation (from Spanish) I can do that and post what I find.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

I believe they come from what is now Mexico

****

Yes, the ones that the Spanish took back to Spain as well as spreading themn elsewhere came from there but the origin of tomatoes, all now about 12 different species, is from the temperate highlands of primarily Chile and Peru.

I think the best place to look for tomatoes grown by the indigeous Indians of the SW is to go to NativeSeeds/search, b/c in their travels they've picked up a few from the US and Mexico.

No one knows exactly how tomatoes got from Chile and Peru to Mexico, and the ones that were grown there when the Spanish came were primarily what we call currant tomatoes ( S. pimpinellifolium) and they were spread by the Spanish along the Gulf Coast into FL and are still there, growing wild.

There are varieties such as Zapotec Pleated that are said to be of native American origin, but they are of more recent vintage, Same with those that usually have Mexico as part of the name.

I know of no seed saving organizations In Mexico for it just hasn't been a priority and I do think that NativeSeeds/Search might be a better source.

The concept of heirloom, aka older, tomatoes is not really known by most of the Mexican people, as far as I know.

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Tomatoes, along with potatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, peanuts, avocados, guavas, quinine and many more come from South America--Peru. Corn is shared with Mexico.
In the 1500's Spain established 2 viceroiships in America, the other being Mexico. As time passed, most South American countries were carved out of Peru.
Of all the traditional edible plants that came out of South America (not new ones), one can recognize the ones that came out of current day Peru by their temperature growing requirements (tomatoes, peppers)--not too hot, not too cold, except potatoes; although, potatoes will not grow tubers once the temperatures get too warm. Today, new fruits are being introduced to the US market from Peru, and some of them are being brought from the eastern region of Peru--the Rain Forest, where the weather is hot and humid. Rarely a day goes by when we have not eaten a meal based on some plant from Peru.
Even though Peru is located in the tropics, one can find there all the types of weather in the world except arctic weather--from snow storms to tropical rain storms separated at most by couple hundred miles from each other and not necessarily by the time of time of the year.
Oh, one more thing, although tomatoes come from Peru, one would not want to eat a tomato in Peru; the best tasting tomatoes are grown here in the USA. Tomatoes are grown all year long, but there are very few varieties to choose from, and mostly Italian or paste tomatoes are sold in markets.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

I want to correct something I said earlier. When I said tomatoes that have been grown by "Native North American Indians" were sourced from European-American commercial breeder/vendors, I meant the tomatoes grown by Eastern Woodland Indians, Plains Indians, Indians from what's presently the western U.S., etc. which I believe were not part of the pre-Columbian diets or gardens of those tribes living in what is now the U.S.

Mexico in fact is part of the North American continent, so Native Americans living in pre-Columbian Mexico are indeed "Native North American Indians" and did grow indigenous tomatoes which were not reintroductions from European-American commercial sources ... as I believe the tomatoes grown by Cherokee and other Eastern Woodland Indians were reintroduced commercial types, as witnessed by their size, shapes, colors and interior texture.

Too often we forget that Mexico is located in North America, so I wanted to correct myself on that issue.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by cabrita 9b & 10a (21 & 23) (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 18, 08 at 1:07

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomate

This is fascinating. I post a link for spanish tomato wikipedia, it is a little different than the English version. They list the species and indeed south America is the home of the ancestral tomato as well as the ancestral peppers. Taken to Spain in 1540. jitomatl translates as "watery fat thing with a navel" cute.

I wonder why did the spanish not take tomatoes from Peru as well as from Mexico? did the Incas stop gowing them?

It seems they have been cultivated for 1300 years?! The site cites a book on the history of tomatoes:
Smith, Andrew F. (1994), The tomato in America : early history, culture, and cookery. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C, USA. ISBN 1-57003-000-6

The best tomatoes are from my garden and your garden, and some of us live in the US. As far as buying them at shops or markets though, southern Europe has much nicer tasting commercially available tomatoes IMO. I have not done any tomato shopping in Peru, and in Mexico they were OK but uneventful, and much less interesting than other items in their markets. Maybe the Aztecs lost interest in tomatoes long after the Incas did?

Here is a link that might be useful: jitomate


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

I wonder why did the spanish not take tomatoes from Peru as well as from Mexico? did the Incas stop gowing them?
*****

Probably b/c the Spanish went north from Mexico rather than south after they invaded Mexico.

*****

It seems they have been cultivated for 1300 years?! The site cites a book on the history of tomatoes:
Smith, Andrew F. (1994), The tomato in America : early history, culture, and cookery. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C, USA. ISBN 1-57003-000-6

*****

Andy Smith is a good friend of mine and it's my opinion that his book has the best documentation in terms of tomato history.

******
The best tomatoes are from my garden and your garden, and some of us live in the US. As far as buying them at shops or markets though, southern Europe has much nicer tasting commercially available tomatoes IMO. I have not done any tomato shopping in Peru, and in Mexico they were OK but uneventful, and much less interesting than other items in their markets. Maybe the Aztecs lost interest in tomatoes long after the Incas did?

*****
I have friends in Europe and I've visited all of the countries in Europe and I'm not too sure I'd agree with your comment about the commercially available tomatoes being that good. Yes, in some of the local markets there are some good ones, but that's just as true here in the US when it comes to tasty fruits to be found at local stands and farmer's markets.

In so many places there has been a switch to the same often tasteless hybrids that so many of us have known. There are some good hybrid varities, don't get me wrong, but seldom do they end up in our stores.

The tomato hybridizing capital of the world is in the Netherlands where there are several well known companies that are very active. And it's been a race against time to collect seeds from the local indigenous tomato varieties throughout Europe in general in order to preserve them.

If you look at even one issue of the SSE Yearbook, I don't mean the public catalog/website, I think you'd appreciate the listings of about 4000 varieties, many from Europe and other countries as well as the US.

I was quite underwhelmed with the tomatoes grown in Mexico that again, are usually hard somewhat tasteless varieties and Mexico is the source, along with FL, of most of our shipped in winter tomatoes.

Come take a peek in my fridge and marvel at what looks like a tomato but sure doesn't taste like a tomato. If I can get the hydroponically grown ones from Canada they're much better.

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by trudi_d 7, Long Island (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 18, 08 at 10:07

Most librarians are not keen on wikipedia as a reliable source for any information--many schools have banned its use as a documentation source.

For verifiable info you should inqire with NAL librarians, they can search many databases--some of which are public and some of which are not.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA National Agricultrual Library.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

The Wikipedia entry in Spanish provided by Cabrita for "La Tomatera" is identical when read in the English language Wikipedia entry for "Tomato" .

It references the same book by Carolyn's good friend, Andy Smith, and gives the same historic details.

Additionally, identical information is given almost word for word in many online reference documents other than Wikipedia, and was drawn from written documents published before the Internet was invented by Al Gore, Jr.

Bill, who is a good friend of Al Gore, Jr. (although he just doesn't know it); and doesn't really give a rat's patooty about a librarian's opinion of Wikipedia.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Bill, who is a good friend of Al Gore, Jr. (although he just doesn't know it); and doesn't really give a rat's patooty about a librarian's opinion of Wikipedia.

****

I say Bill, are things slow at work these days? LOL

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Uh ... yeah. Developers aren't exactly platting new subdivisions or even building out the ones already platted just now. Something about the economy, they say.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

You could have 2 very educated scientists studying, for example, the origin of tomatoes, and come up with 2 completely different answers on where the tomato came from, and they could both be right. And so, I will tell you the story I heard on a documentary.

When Macro Polo went to China he brought back to Italy noodles, tomatoes, and some other things. The tomatoes then spread to Europe, and the colonists brought them to America.


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not buying that Marco Polo story ...

Well, I'm afraid that story is wrong on both accounts. Neither tomatoes nor pasta was first introduced to the Mediterranean by Marco Polo.

The Jerusalem Talmud contains the first record of "noodles" cooked by boiling. It was written in Aramaic in the 5th century CE, well before Marco Polo's alleged adventure to China.

The word used for the noodles was "itriyah" indicating dried rather than fresh noodles, and bought from a vendor rather than made at home.

Noodles most likely were introduced to the Greek and Italian lands by seafaring or overland traders who carried the product as a staple capable of remaining edible on long journeys ... in both directions (East along the silk route, and west through the Mediterranean) out of the Middle East, where wheat had been grown and processed into food millennia before Europeans and Chinese grew it.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

You could have 2 very educated scientists studying, for example, the origin of tomatoes, and come up with 2 completely different answers on where the tomato came from, and they could both be right.

*****

Sorry, but negative on that as Bill has also commented.

The wild species of tomatoes, now numbering about 12, were found in the highlands of chile and Peru mainly by Dr Rick, now deceased, and his associates at UC Davis. Originally 7 species were IDed, but others have now IDed an additional 5 or so other species from the same area.

The Rick Center is THE authority on wild species.

DNA restriction analysis has been used to trace the migration of tomatoes from there to the Galapagos Islands and to other places.

If you haven't visited the Rick Center I'll link to it below. It is not a place to get tomato seeds from unless a person documents that they are using some of the accessions in breeding programs.

But it's one heck of an interesting site/

Carolyn

Here is a link that might be useful: C. M Rick Center, UC Davis, CA


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by cabrita 9b & 10a (21 & 23) (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 18, 08 at 18:59

Carolyn, thanks so much for your opinion on The History of tomatoes book. It has now joined your tomato book on my Christmas presents list...

Sorry but I do not buy your explanation on why were tomatoes not brought from the Inca Empire. Spain lost over 50% of its population at the time due to immigration to the Americas. Many people just went to Peru, many went to the central part (Mexico and central America) and never went to other places in the American continent, which is quite large..... Remember, transportation was not as easy then. Besides, Cortez marched into Tenochtitlan in 1519, but Pizarro did not conquer the Inca's empire until 1532-1533, so it was later. Maybe I'll get some ideas on why from your friend's book, I am really curious now. They definitely brought potatoes from Peru, so why not tomatoes?

Tomatoes in northern Europe are not very good. I was referring to the Mediterranean part of Spain and France, maybe Italy too (I was too young when I was in Italy so maybe things changed) but perhaps the explanation is that I know where to shop in Spain but not in California! (smile)


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

I guess tomatoes are native American; they just happened to develop a few thousand miles from here.

I do agree with Carolyn that the best tomatoes are the ones grown in our own gardens, where the tomatoes are given a chance to ripen and fully develop their flavor.

For many reasons, among them the availability of land (I am over-simplifying things), we, in the US, can grow as many varieties of tomatoes as we wish; thus, we have the best tasting tomatoes.

To me, nothing says summer like sitting outside on an early August day with a tomato sandwich made on toast with a little mayonnaise, thin sliver of onion (salt and pepper to taste), and a glass of iced tea--Every year I wait impatiently for months for this, not caring where tomatoes come from, just wishing for a juicy, good tasting tomato!!!

Until then, I enjoy reading these posts with all the advice, opinions, information, and prepare myself to start my seeds, to fight all the tomato pests and diseases until that elusive August day...Oh, tomato sandwich, how I miss you!


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Why did the Spanish take tomatoes from Mexico to Europe, but not from Peru to Europe?

Just an opinion, but I think because by the time of Cortez's invasion an conquest, the Mexican tomatoes had undergone substantial selection for many generations as a domesticated garden crop for use in the Aztec and surrounding cultural cuisines. And it was, in Mexico, a larger, multi-celled, market fruit by comparison with tiny, wild tomatoes indigenous to Peru.

At the same time, tomatoes in Peru were small wild types that were not included by Incas as a significant component of their cuisine.

Also remember that the Aztec built their capital city of Tenochtitlan by sinking huge baskets of soil in Lake Texcoco, building gardens and home sites on islands connected by minor and major causeways. On their "floating" island gardens, they grew an array of flowers and vegetables which sustained them in an area with very limited sources of animal protein.

Now it gets rather sticky here, and I don't mean to offend, but the Aztec were indeed known for "religious" and cultural practices that included well documented (by them and by the Spanish) human sacrifice. And it is reported in records kept by the conquistadores that there was some degree of cannibalism as part of, or a tag-onto the cultural/religious sacrificial rites.

There also is some evidence from surviving Aztec pictographs and Spanish accounts that hot peppers, chocolate and tomatoes were ingredients in the "stews" consumed as part of the Aztec dietary and cultural rites.

Such was not the case with the Incas, apparently, and particularly with regard to the inclussion of tomatoes in the Andean diets other than as an inconsequential element, and then gathered as a wild berry rather than a cultivated crop.

Potatoes from South America is a totally different issue since they were an Andean staple especially by comparison with tiny wild tomatoes.


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Wow, when I started the thread I had no idea it would turn out like this. You guys are coming up with alot of info, all very interesting.

Melissa


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by trudi_d 7, Long Island (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 18, 08 at 22:13

The word used for the noodles was "itriyah" indicating dried rather than fresh noodles, and bought from a vendor rather than made at home.

Cup of Noodles ~ Food of the Gods. For millenia.

There also is some evidence from surviving Aztec pictographs and Spanish accounts that hot peppers, chocolate and tomatoes were ingredients in the "stews" consumed as part of the Aztec dietary and cultural rites.

Holy Mole'!


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Irrespective of indigenous people's social practices, plants have evolved in the environment that met its requirements or vice versa. Today's tomatoes still carry in their DNA the requirements that are met by Peru's weather.

The Peruvian current (also known as Humbolt's current--the cause of the Nino weather effect) works as a giant air conditioner that maintains the air temperature pretty constant throughout the year in the coast of Peru. At the same time, the Andes keep the hot and humid weather from moving to the west. These two factors provide the right environment required by tomatoes. Tomatoes are perennial plants, and in Peru they are grown 12 months a year, which cannot be done in Mexico.
Whether tomatoes evolved because the weather or the weather was right for the tomatoes to evolve, this evolution took place long before humans were able to cultivate them and take them from one place to another.
Although the above are not all the arguments to decide where tomatoes originally evolved, for me, at least, I have to be convinced that Mexico's weather would be better for the evolution of tomatoes than Peru's, where for thousands of miles the weather is a 'perpetual spring.'


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Please just continue this discussion. I never learn quite so much as when I read tomato forum. At one time I thought "Cherokee Purple" was native tomato. However, I get great pleasure telling my Eastern European friends about corn, beans and squash and tomatoes and avocado and not to forget potato, that all of these plants came from the Americas. Most of them are not aware where they come from. Just few days ago before Christmas I bought a few avocados and a friend who works at this supermarket (another Eastern European) asked why do I waste money on such food. Speaking of tomatoes, didn't Native Indians north of Mexico grow tomato or did they even know of it. I would say for myself at least, how much I enjoy growing Chinese greens, heirloom tomatoes, and really great butternut squash.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

  • Posted by jll0306 9/ Sunset 18/High De (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 31, 08 at 13:45

Yugoslava, I like knowing the history of the food I eat, too. I have been surprising my friends by telling them about the great tomatoes that come from Siberia and many countries of the former USSR.

Melissa, if the descriptions can be believed, I may have found two more for your list. At growquest.com, they state that the Zapotec Pleated tomato is "named for its creators, the Zapotec people of Oaxaca."

And the seed site from Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's home) says:
"The ribbed, bulbous, and scarred Purple Calabash tomato dates back to pre-Columbian Mexico. Here the Aztecs combined this "xitomatl" with hot peppers and ground squash seeds to make a salsa that would accompany fish and meat."

Since it also appears to have a pleated look I wonder if it might not have been an ancestor of the ZP?


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Melissa, if the descriptions can be believed, I may have found two more for your list. At growquest.com, they state that the Zapotec Pleated tomato is "named for its creators, the Zapotec people of Oaxaca."

*****

I mentioned Zapotec Pleated in my post of Dec 17th. But again, no documented origin. I think it's Redwood City Seeds in CA that used to list several varieties SAID to come from Mexico but again, there's no descriptions at all of anything as big as Zapotec being grown in pre-Spanish Mexico.

Documentation such as Native Seeds/Search has is the way to go and they now list only Punta Banda as I mentioed above.

(And the seed site from Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's home) says:
"The ribbed, bulbous, and scarred Purple Calabash tomato dates back to pre-Columbian Mexico. Here the Aztecs combined this "xitomatl" with hot peppers and ground squash seeds to make a salsa that would accompany fish and meat.")

And I know who wrote that blurb about Purple Calabash for Monticello, ahem, and again, it's stretching the point b'c nowhere is such a variety ever mentioned by the Spanish in Mexico.

When the Spanish got to Mexico the tomatoes there were described by the Spanish as being small cherry like ones, and nothing much larger.

And there's a Red Calabash as well. ( smile)

Carolyn


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  • Posted by jll0306 9/ Sunset 18/High De (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 31, 08 at 21:46

Darn, Carolyn I should have used the FF "find in page" feature before posting instead of trusting my eyes' quick scan.

I suppose Zapotec could have been developed in the past hundred years or so. I have a friend who spends a great deal of time in the area, I'll ask her to take a look at the market tomatoes when she's down there.

And here's another description of a tomato with NA roots, that may sound familiar to you (smile). I;m guessing this was one of your early contributions to SSE:

"[The name 'Manyel' means 'many moons'. An heirloom reportedly of recent Native American origin. Original seed sent to SESE by Carolyn Male.] Fruits look like yellow moons amidst the sparse green foliage. Creamy yellow tomatoes with a characteristic lemon-like flavor...."

From Southern Exposure


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Since the thread forayed into mexican/south american territory (which technically is "native American"), I was wondering if anyone had a reccommendation as to tomato varieties that were/are featured in traditional Mexican or South American cuisine?

I know of the zapotec, but anything else?

A local restaurant does "heritage" Mexican/South American food, but is forced to use tomatoes at hand. I would like to offer additional authenticity to their fantastic cuisine:)


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  • Posted by jll0306 9/ Sunset 18/High De (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 11, 09 at 11:15

PBL. while not necessarily a "featured" tomato, according to at least one of the descriptions of it, seeds for the Mexico variety were brought to the US by an immigrant family.

I haven't grown it, but Carla in Sacramento (aka Sautesmom) says it is an excellent hot weather tomato.


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

Since the thread forayed into mexican/south american territory (which technically is "native American"), I was wondering if anyone had a reccommendation as to tomato varieties that were/are featured in traditional Mexican or South American cuisine?

****

Having visited Mexico quite a bit I'd venture a good guess that the tomatoes that most of the Mexicans use these days are the ever abundant red hybrids that are so common in Mexico.

And yes, used by the Mexican people themselves as well as the restaurant folks.

While there may be a few heirlooms, as we refer to them, still around and seeds available I'm not too sure that many Mexicans are even growing them today and how many grew them in the past.

I've grown one called Isla Margarita and Peron Sprayless was deveoped in S America and seeds are available.

An interesting subject, though, for sure.

Carolyn


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RE: Native American tomatoes?

I thought I'd add something to the discussion:

Tomatoes were grown north of Mexico, but only in the Southwest - the area inhabited by the Pueblo groups like the Hopi and the Zuni. This is possibly where the Navajo cultivars originated, as the Navajo were in close contact with the Pueblo peoples.

Understand, though, that the Pueblo peoples were an isolated group that are closer linked to the Mexican civilizations than the other groups in what is today the United States.

The Pueblo people were somewhat of an isolated agricultural population, surrounded by desert and the plains, which were not as suitable to agriculture. Their neighbors in these regions, like the Navajo, were mostly hunter-gatherers in ancient times and did not grow their own crops until recently. The Pueblo peoples traded with the Toltecs of Mexico, however, and from them they recieved many crops, and also rare imports of luxury items like cacao beans and macaw parrots that only the nobility could ever afford.

To make more sense of it, remember that today's borders are a modern construct, and that up until the 19th Century the American Southwest was governed from Mexico City rather than Washington, DC. Therefore, the distinction of the US Southwest region as being closer related to the rest of the United States than to Mexico is not the case for most of history, particularly before Columbus showed up.

Mexico is the origin for many of the crops associated with the natives of North America, including corn and beans. Beans, actually, only arrived in the Eastern United States just shortly before Europeans did. It's probable that given time, if the Europeans hadn't shown up, tomatoes would have eventually arrived there through along indigenous trade routes, too, but Europe beat them to it and ended up being their middle man.

Read "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond for more information. The Americas ran along a "north-south" trade access - meaning that in order for domesticated plants and other ideas to spread from one region to another, they had to travel through very different climate zones, which made the journey a lot tougher. Since tomatoes were actually of South American origin, it would have taken a lot longer. Those tomatoes had to travel from the colder Andes mountains, into the sharply different, tropical rainforest region, into the more arid grassland regions of central Mexico, and finally through the deserts of northern Mexico and the Southwestern states - which took a long, long time - hundreds if not thousands of years. To get from there to the Great Plains and finally the Eastern Woodlands would have taken more time than the Native Americans had before Jamestown was planted.


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