The Tomato as Fruit and Vegetable

This is the first article in August of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on August 1, 1909, and is an article on the tomato which includes some recipes.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Tomato as Fruit and Vegetable

READERS who are familiar with the charming play, “The Old Homestead” (and few are not), will recall the dialogue between Aunt Tildy and her mature admirer, in which the small talk turns upon the tomato.

“We never use’ to thin of eatin’ them,” says the bashful suitor. And the housewife reminds him and herself how they were called “love-apples” when they two were boy and girl.

Two encyclopedias agree that the tomato was brought to the United States from tropical South America; that it was known in Southern Europe early in the sixteenth century—in France as “pomme d’amour” (love-apple.)

Some curiosity hunters claim for the vegetable an Egyptian ancestry. For all we can prove to the contrary, it may have been one of the cool, and hence “kindly fruits of the earth,” for which the Israelites pined vainly in the desert along with leeks, onions and melons.

The encyclopedias go on to assert that “the tomato was known only as a curiosity in the United States until about 1830.” Acting upon this assertion, a critic took me sharply to task for naming it as an ingredient in a “Brunswick stew,” described in my “Judith’s Chronicle of Old Virginia,” the date of which story is given as 1833-35.

In verification of my chronology, and in respectful demur to the learned compiler of dates and facts, I submit recipes from “The Virginia Housewife,” by Marcia Randolph, published in 1828. Said recipes called for “tomatas” (sic) and append no explanation of the word. It is evident that the estimable fruit-vegetable was in common use upon the table of the notable Virginia housemother of that generation. I may add that I made sure of this before writing that particular chapter of my “Chronicle.” Old housekeepers told me of having cooked and eaten stewed tomatoes before 1828, and one diligent Bible reader advances the theory that this was the “red pottage” for which Esau sold his birthright!

Not that the subject of our talk needs the stamp of age to establish its right to a distinguished place in our dietary.

“It is nutritious and wholesome, with laxative and antiscorbutic properties,” writes one authority upon horticulture and pomology. Doctors “away down South in Dixie” prescribed it fifty-odd years ago as a mild substitute for the calomel which was then administered in what seems to us murderous quantities. I recollect picking the yellow and red egg and plum tomatoes in my father’s garden and eating them out of hand in years when late frosts had cut short the fruit crop and the system carved the grateful anti-febrile acid. And that I was encouraged by our family physician to partake freely of the “substitute.”

I have yet to see the man, woman or child with whom the tomato disagrees. Eaten raw, with a French or mayonnaise dressing, or cooked in some one of the ways commended by our best cook books, it should form a part of summer and of winter family fare. In further recommendation of the valuable and amiable esculent, let me refer to a test of “canned goods” made at my instance five years ago by members of our scientific staff, chief among these standing one who, early in the history of our department won for himself the honorary title of “Our Courteous Consulting Chemist.” I recall, as one item in the analysis made by this colaborer, that he detected in three spoonfuls of preserved (canned) pears enough salicylic acid to dose an adult, I recall, more gratefully, that not one of our expects reported the presence of “preservative” drugs in canned tomatoes. They may be found in some brands, but not in any of those that have been tested and reported upon to us.

The tomato is so easily cultivated—sustaining its reputation for amiability here, likewise—that one wonders not to see it more frequently in the small patches that pass for city gardens. Given a trellis or a wire netting against a brick or stone wall or a board fence, and good soil, with a fair allowance of water and sunshine, and the vines clamber fast and lushly. One good woman I know starts her tomato vines in a box set in her laundry window early in January. They are sturdy plants by the May day, when she considers it safe to transfer them to her back yard; after which she has delicious tomatoes in abundance for her family until the frost cuts them down in late October.

Hardly a week passes in which I do not learn of some new and attractive way of preparing our vegetable for the table. One was brought to me last week from a “swell” luncheon party by a woman who is as keen as myself in the quest for new and better ways of doing old things.

It was served as the initiatory “appetizer” of the feast.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Sardines.

Select large ripe tomatoes of uniform size and pare them carefully with a sharp knife. Set on the ice to harden, and cut out the hearts neatly, leaving the walls whole. Prepare the filling by skinning boneless sardines and laying them upon tissue paper to absorb the oil. Then scrape as you would pick codfish for “balls,” and work in a little lemon juice and a dash of white pepper. Toss and work with a silver fork until smooth, and fill the cavities left in the tomatoes with the mixture.

The combination of flavors is very pleasant.

Tomato and Shrimp Salad.

This dish I believe to have been original with me. I had never heard of it until I prepared and set it before wondering eyes that were glad after the salad was tasted—then devoured.

Prepare the tomatoes as directed in the preceding recipe. Set the hollowed tomatoes in the ice after filling them with canned of fresh (cooked) shrimps. Arrange the shrimps neatly, the backs upward, and pack closely. Just before serving put a spoonful of mayonnaise dressing upon the top of each.

Tomatoes With Whipped Cream Dressing.

This too, I might have held, even to this day, to be an original device of my own, had I not chanced, awhile ago, to meet with it in Elizabeth Fennell’s delightful melange of culinary more and poetic fantasies, “The Feasts of Lucullus.” It was, then, coincidence and not plagiarism, when I evolved the combination from my brain.

Pare the tomatoes, halve each and set it in the ice until chilled to the heart. When you are ready to serve, heap whipped cream—chipped—upon each half, having first sprinkled it with salt and yet more lightly with white or with sweet pepper.

You may doubt my word that you will find it delicious. Try it, and complain if you do not like it.

Tomatoes with Mayonnaise.

Pare and cut out the hearts. Set on ice until they are very cold. Serve with mayonnaise filling the cavities. Pass heated crackers and cream cheese with it as a salad course at luncheon or supper.

Tomatoes Stuff With Green Corn.

This is also a salad. Pare as above, and extract the hearts. Fil with green corn that has been boiled on the cob, then cut off ad left to get perfectly cold. In serving, cover with mayonnaise or with a simpler French dressing.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes.

Select large, fair tomatoes and, without peeling, cut a piece from the top and excavate from the center. Mix with the pulp thus extracted one-third as much fine, dry breadcrumbs; season with melted butter, a few drops of onion juice and pepper and salt. Stuff the hollowed tomatoes full with this, fit the tops on and arrange in a bakedish, pouring about them the juice that escaped from the tomatoes when you dug out the pulp. Put a tiny bit of butter upon each and bake covered. Serve in the dish in which they were cooked.

You may, if you like, substitute boiled green corn for the crumbs. This is a nice accompaniment to roast meat or fish.

Marion Harland

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