About our good old shiny red tomato
Domesticated by the Incas in its ancestral shape, the tomatille, the domestic tomato is first depicted in Mexico by the conquistadors. Considered toxic in Europe until the end of the 18th century, it only loses its former reputation around 1820 in the United States.
In 1850, Baltimore based farmer Dr T.J Hand undertakes an artificial selection program aiming to increase the size and taste of the fruit, still disdained by americans at the time. In 1870, Dr Hand puts the Trophy tomato (big, red and smooth) on the market, which considerably surpasses the size of any ancient variety.
Its success is such that nurseryman and Trophy seeds reseller George Waring would offer $5 to each client who would succeed on growing bigger than 1.13kg tomatoes, and $100 to the one who would grow the biggest Trophy of all. By reselling his client’s seeds, Waring actually pursued Dr Hand’s selection while acquiring a flourishing business.
In 1994, the Flavr Savr tomato, created by the company Calgene, is the first genetically modified plant to hit the market. It is however a widespread commercial flop. Unable to compete with other varieties, its rights are bought by Monsanto in 1996.