The Ancient Gardener's Instructor: Dispatches from Wesley Greene
August 15, 2012
In 1742 or ’43, the London plant collector Peter Collinson wrote to John Custis of Williamsburg, “Apples of Love are very much used In Italy too putt when Ripe into their Brooths & soops giving it a pretty Tart Tast. A Lady Just come from Leghorn sayes She thinks it gives an Agreeagle Tartness & Relish to them & she Likes it Much. They Call it Tamiata. I never yet Try’d the Experiment but I think to do It.”
The English name for the fruit, “Apples of Love,” originated from the French “Pomme d’amour,” which, in turn, derived from the Italian Poma amoris first listed in an herbal attributed Francesco Petrollini compiled before 1560. Petrollini’s name may have been a mistaken translation of the first European description of the fruit by another Italian, Pietro Matthioli who called it “pomi d’ oro” or golden apple.
In 1773, William Hanbury recorded in A Complete Body of Planting, “The names Love Apples or Mad Apples are now grown useless, especially when talking of the Kitchen Garden produce: The fashionable term to express them is Tomatoes.”
Tomato is a Spanish word and is clearly a case of mistaken identity. It was borrowed from the Nahuatl word “tomatl,” which was actually the Aztec word for the husk tomato (Physalis ixocarpa).
In Williamsburg we have recently been introduced to the tomato and have discovered a method for the training of them that does not require stakes or cages. This I will share in our next conversation, but for those impatient to know the method, you will find it explained in Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way, 18th Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners (Rodale Press).