Tomatoes Used To Have A Surprisingly Romantic Name

Tomatoes are a versatile food that we use in everything from salads and sandwiches to stews, sauces, and dips. You can make numerous different recipes incorporating tomatoes that will add their specific tangy, savory bite to dishes.

There is also the timeless informal debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable. The good news on that front is that no matter what side of the argument you fall on, you're right. Science Alert notes that botanically speaking, a tomato merits the fruit classification, but when it comes to the culinary lexicon and how we characterize the taste of tomatoes and their use in the kitchen, they're regarded as vegetables.

One thing not up for debate is that tomatoes once had quite the amorous appellation. Paris is known as the "city of love," and as an iconic travel destination for romantic getaways. So perhaps it's only fitting that France formerly called tomatoes pommes d'amour, or "apples of love," per NPR.

So why was the humble tomato at one point associated with love? Well, it might be more accurate to say that it had to with lust. And as with most origin stories, there are multiple tales explaining the genesis of the name.

A tomato by any other name

While some have attributed the name love apple to France, others have connected the moniker to Spain. Tomatoes originated in South America and were being cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico when the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in the 16th century. In addition to plenty of gold, Cortés is believed to have brought back tomato seeds to Spain and introduced them to Europe, per Cochise County Master Gardeners.

Tomatoes spread first to Mediterranean countries, and eventually a myth developed that they possessed the properties of an aphrodisiac. Another possible theory for the source of the name, and the link to romance, was Italian herbalist Pietro Andrea Mattioli, who classified it scientifically as related to the mandrake plant, which was widely considered at the time to be an aphrodisiac (via How Stuff Works).

Today, tomatoes may not have the same symbolic bedroom appeal as strawberries, chocolate – or best of all, chocolate-covered strawberries — but whichever way you slice it, the tomato's backstory is anything but vanilla.