Today, tomatoes are known as a healthy fruit with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. In the 1700s however, it was believed that tomatoes could kill.
In the 1700s, tomatoes were blamed for the deaths of some aristocrats, who commonly ate them off plates high in lead content. Since tomatoes are acidic, they easily removed lead from the plates and caused lead poisoning when consumed. Also, tomato plants belong to the nightshade family and some members of this family are known to be poisonous. For these reasons, there was much fear in North America and Europe about tomatoes and their safety. Myths and fears continued for a long time, until the late 1800s when the public was finally convinced of their safety and tomato consumption rose.
More about food and fear:
- Neophobia is the fear of or dislike for new and unfamiliar foods.
- In the 1600s, Europeans were suspicious of a newly introduced food, potatoes. Potatoes were mostly given to animals or eaten by the very poor.
- The Japanese fish delicacy, fugu, is made from the puffer fish which has poisonous internal organs. Only expert chefs can prepare fugu in Japan.