Tomatoes, Werewolves and ‘Wolf-peaches’

August is prime tomato time. This week, because so many of them are coming out of the garden, we have a little story for you about tomatoes — and werewolves:

A French botanist named Tournefort assigned the botanical name, Lycopersicon esculentum, to the tomato. Why a Frenchman got to choose, we don’t know, but this Latin name translates, strangely, to “wolfpeach” – round and soft-skinned like a “peach, and “wolf” (maybe?) because the tomato was considered poisonous at the time. It is thought that perhaps Messr. Tournefort mistakenly took the tomato for the mythological wolfpeach referred to in the writings of the ancient Greek physician-philosopher Galen, who wrote that wolves could be destroyed with tomatoes.

(You try it first and report back to us how that goes.)

Or perhaps the botanist got the idea from old German werewolf [“lycanthropy”] myths, where witches use nightshade plants [tomatoes belong to the nightshade family] to create werewolves. Considering that tomatoes were long thought to be poisonous, we wonder what it took for the first person to go ahead and bite into one.  Probably the same guy who first ate a mushroom. Or sushi.

Werewolf Etiquette Tip: If are in London, and you happen to see a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking the streets in the rain, you do not have to share your tomatoes with him. He is, in fact, looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook’s, or perhaps for a good pina colada at Trader Vic’s. It’s best to just tell him his hair looks perfect and move along – quickly.

If werewolves are not a concern at your table, try a freshly-sliced tomato with a drizzle of our Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and perhaps a pinch of exquisite Fleur de Sel.

Chef Amy has posted lots of other ways to make something tasty with tomatoes on the AllSpice recipe pages, too.  You’ll find something for every taste there – including these favorites of ours:

No word whether any of these recipes works at repelling or destroying werewolves (we’re reviewing old episodes of Scooby-doo and looking for clues among Shaggy’s many late-night snacks to see if any were tomato-related), but they are certain to attract hungry diners to the table — and use up some of the bounty of your garden or CSA box.

Photo: Tiny tomatoes, Elisabeth Lewin, 2009.