Thursday, April 21

Tomato Sprouts

Eitan and I dive into veg and watch the hatchlings from seed. With care we transfer the sprouts from their incubator into larger pots protected from the outside, inside. The dog has murdered half our crop but we have hope.

And did you know ... tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597 and largely plagiarized from continental sources (like my blog here) is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew that the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed that it was poisonous (NB the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous). Gerard's views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating for many years in Britain.

By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of the century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated that the tomato was "in daily use" in soups, broths, and as a garnish. In Victorian times, cultivation reached an industrial scale in glasshouses, most famously in Worthing. Pressure for housing land in the 1930s to 1960s saw the industry move west to Littlehampton and to the market gardens south of Chichester. Over the past 15 years, the British tomato industry has declined as more competitive imports from Spain and the Netherlands have reached the supermarkets.