It wasn’t all that long ago that we learned tomatoes (along with peppers, cucumbers, and anything else with seeds) are really a fruit, however that is not true in a United States court of law. In 1883 the US Supreme Court passed a law that classified tomatoes as a vegetable.
The reason, of course, was taxes. An importer of produce refused to pay the usual tariff on vegetables arguing that tomatoes were not actually vegetables. That’s true, and the senate agreed in the botanical sense… but they made the law anyway.
That’s how the tomato can cause taxes, so how about death? Well when that law was passed, North American people would have only been eating the tomato for about 60 years prior. Before that, it was widely believed and assumed that the tomato was very poisonous.
The tomato was picked up by European explorers around 1500 from it’s native home in South America, and it was experimented with once they got it back home. So I don’t know where along the line this poison belief crept in, but in 1820 nobody would dare eat a tomato. Except one man.
The brave mythbuster was Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson, and one day he staged a public demonstration on the courthouse steps of Salem, New Jersey where he dared to eat a tomato. Obviously, the event had an anti-climactic ending and people started eating tomatoes fearlessly.
- Source: http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/pae/botany/botany_map/articles/article_35.html
- Inspired by my friend Shawn who asked about the poison myth (which I had never heard of)