The Tomato is a Triumph of the Peasant Class

You may have heard that the tomato was once feared to be poisonous (by Europeans, anyhow; Mesoamericans were happily digging into tomato salads, sauces, and cakes for centuries before first contact. During the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs seasoned their tomato stews with Hernando Cortes’s soldiers¹).

The blame lies partially on its taxonomy. Not long after the first tomato specimen arrived in Spain aboard Cortes’s ship, European botanists identified the plant as a Nightshade. This placed it in the same family as belladonna and mandrake —…