Roots and Limbs

Tomatoes: it is sometimes shocking to remember that their ubiquitous presence in global cuisine is a purely modern phenomenon. Italy without red sauce on pasta? Dante never dined on ragù Bolognese when composing The Divine Comedy. It’s almost inconceivable, so deeply is the plant tied to the culture. The tomato thus serves as a gateway to deep histories, ones which explore the use of plants as the product of trade often conducted with violence. And while looking at such strange truths, one might also wonder: What would the world have looked like if the tomato never left the Americas?

[Botanical manuscript of 450 watercolors of flowers and plants], ca. 1740. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Washington, DC. Harvard University. Image cropped.

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Perspectives on History October 2022 Cover. A colored sketch of a tomato plant on linen paper. The text reads: “LICOPERSICON GALENI POMME D’AMOUR. Le suc de la plante est bon por les inflamations des yeux pour aretter les fluxion et pour rejoudre pour apaiser les douleurs.” (Licopersicon galeni, Apple of Love. The sap of the plant is good for eye inflammation, stopping swelling, and alleviating illness.)


Leland Renato Grigoli, editor
Laura Ansley, managing editor
Lizzy Meggyesy, research and publications assistant
Alexandra F. Levy, communications manager
Liz Townsend, manager, data administration and integrity