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Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian diet, be it a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish

Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian diet, be it a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish. It has to be a part of each meal in some form. As puree, paste, flavour, or diced into the dal. This tangy, sweet, and juicy ingredient was not always Indian. In fact, it did not even grow in India until the British sanctioned it. It is a product of colonization and has come a long way to become part of our everyday meals.

Originally, the tomato was considered poison. Its actual native is debatable. Some say it is European while others argue that is came from indigenous parts of Spain and Portugal. Either way, it is a plant species that is associated with the legendary Nightshade. It looks very similar to this poisonous plant that tomatoes were not even harvested for a long time, for fear of picking Nightshade instead. It was believed that Nightshade caused the blood to turn to acid and that tomatoes had the same property. Later research proved that the plant itself may be poisonous but the fruit is not.

Tomatoes were often confused with Nightshade berries The fruit if the woody nightshade plant Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Tomato is considered a fruit instead of a vegetable because it is cooked. But this theory has an interesting tale behind it. in the United States, in 1887, a tax was levied on the transport of vegetables, but not on fruits. By then, tomatoes had become a huge part of the American diet and traders could not afford to pay the ten percent duty. So, they began to call the large loads they transported fruits, just to avoid the tax due. In time, this is how the tomato came to be regarded. Some scientists went even further and stated that it is a berry. Botanists claim that since it is a part that grows from the flower's ovary and contains seeds, it is a fruit and not a vegetable. But this is a debate that will never end.

Incorporating tomatoes into the Indian diet must have happened so long ago that people do not remember a time without tomatoes, considering how it is the fundamental ingredient of most cuisines. The tomato has a name in every language as well, so the trading between nations, the voyages that brought them to India, and the decoding of the fruit-vegetable must have taken place far earlier than our ancestors remember. Or, perhaps we liked it so much that we decided to use it everywhere and make it our own. Nonetheless, it has been a delightful addition.

Keywords: Tomato, Fruit, Vegetable, Nightshade, Voyage, Staple


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