Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about deadly tomatoes.
Did you know that tomatoes are poisonous? Well, they’re not, but if you were part of Europe in the 1700’s, that little tidbit of information was common knowledge. The tomatoes of that time were making everybody sick. Even in Italy, where today the tomato is an integral part of fine cuisine, 300 years ago it was strictly avoided by food-lovers.
What was going on? Well, science at the time was obviously far behind what we know now, but 18th century botanists were no fools. When people started getting sick from eating tomatoes, the likely culprit seemed to be the fact that tomatoes were related to the deadly nightshade plant, whose berries and foliage were toxic to humans. (In fact, many relatives of the nightshade plant, including tomatoes, do have stems and leaves that can make you sick.) But the reality was far less sinister.
In the 1700’s, Europeans used pewter to make their plates, which was a metal alloy that contained mostly tin, but also small amounts of lead. When tomatoes made it to people’s plates, the acid from the tomato would eat into the plate slightly, absorbing some of the lead. While the tomato itself was harmless, the method of serving it was giving people lead poisoning, giving rise to the myth of the deadly tomato.
This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.