Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Robert Gibbon Johnsen and tomato fruit in United States

The English word tomato comes from the Spanish word, tomate, derived Nahuatl (Aztec language) word, tomatl. It first appeared in print in 1595. There were several different theories regarding the presence of tomatoes in United States. Prior to September 1820, American considered the tomato poisonous.

Up until the end of the eighteenth century, physicians warned against eating tomatoes, fearing they caused not only appendicitis but also stomach cancer from tomato skins adhering to the lining of the stomach. Tomatoes were not eaten in the US until the early 1800s, when an eccentric New Jersey gentleman Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson brought them back from a trip overseas.
Colonel Johnson was an American gentleman farmer, historian, horticulturalist, judge, soldier and statesman who lived in Salem, New Jersey.

He planted the tomato plant in his garden. When they produced fruit-bearing vines, he announced that he intended to eat a tomato on the courthouse steps. The display of courage would take place on September 26, 1820. Public excitement was high and some 2,000 spectators arrived to watch Johnson commit what they were certain would be suicide.

He shocked his hometown of Salem by consuming an entire basket of tomatoes in front of a crowd of spectators, expecting him to keel over any second. He lived and tomatoes went on to become people’s favorite fruit.
Robert Gibbon Johnsen and tomato fruit in United States