Monday, February 9, 2009

Common Varieties

Different types now common, according to Sturtevant, have become known to, and been described by Europeans in about the following order:

1. Large yellow, described by Matthiolus in 1554 and called Golden apple.
2. Large red, described by Matthiolus in 1554 and called Love apple.
3. Purple red, described by D'el Obel in 1570.
4. White-fleshed, described by Dodoens in 1586.
5. Red cherry, described by Bauhin in 1620.
6. Yellow cherry, described by Bauhin in 1620.
7. Ochre yellow, described by Bauhin in 1651.
8. Striped, blotched or visi-colored, described by Bauhin in 1651.
9. Pale red, described by Tournefort in 1700.
10. Large smooth, or ribless red, described by Tournefort in 1700.
11. Bronzed-leaved, described by Blacknell in 1750.
12. Deep orange, described by Bryant in 1783.
13. Pear-shaped, described by Dunal in 1805.
14. Tree tomato, described by Vilmorin in 1855.
15. Broad-leaved, introduced about 1860.

The special description of No. 10 by Tournefort in 1700 would indicate that large smooth sorts, like Livingston's Stone, were in existence fully 200 years ago, instead of being modern improvements, as is sometimes claimed; and a careful study of old descriptions and cuts and comparing them with the best examples of modern varieties led Doctor Sturtevant in 1889 to express the opinion that they had fruit as large and smooth as those we now grow, before the tomato came into general use in America, and possibly before the fruit was generally known to Europeans. Even the production of fine fruit under glass is not so modern as many suppose. In transactions of the London Horticultural Society for 1820, John Wilmot is reported to have cultivated under glass in 1818 some 600 plants and gathered from his entire plantings under glass and in borders some 130 bushels of ripe fruit. It is stated that the growth that year exceeded the demand, and that the fruit obtained was of extraordinary size, some exceeding 12 inches in circumference and weighing 12 ounces each. Thomas Meehan states in Gardeners' Monthly for February, 1880, that on January 8, of that year, he saw growing in the greenhouses on Senator Cannon's place near Harrisburg, Pa., at least 1 bushel of ripe fruits, none of which were less than 10 inches in circumference,—a showing which compares with the best to be seen to-day.

Throughout southern Europe the value of the fruit for use in soups and as a salad seems to have been at once recognized, and it came into quite general use, especially in Spain and Italy, during the 17th century; but in northern Europe and England, though the plant was grown in botanical gardens and in a few private places as a curiosity and for the beauty of its fruit, this was seldom eaten, being commonly regarded as unhealthy and even poisonous, and on this account, and probably because of its supposed aphrodisiacal qualities, it did not come into general use in those northern countries until early in the 19th century.

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