You surely know pomodoro, the delightfully effortless Italian word that trips off the tongue in a quick rat-a-tat-tat. It’s the staple ingredient in my favorite Italian comfort food Pasta al pomodoro and can be found in just about any Italian dish from pomodori ripieni (stuffed tomatoes) to Risotto al pomodoro to delicious bruschetta drizzled in oil. But did you know it used to be called the Love Apple or the Golden Apple?
The tomato was brought to Europe in the mid 1500’s but not consumed in England or North America until the early 19th century as it was considered poisonous and in many cases it was! It’s part of the nightshade family which can contain poisonous alkaloids. But the Italians figured out how to grow it safely and have been enjoying the red fruit* for almost 400 years.
Pomodoro comes from the French who called it pomme d’amour or “apple of love” for its aphrodisiac qualities (seems like every food is a “secret” aphrodisiac which begs the question: is it the food…or some guy getting creative on a first date?). It was also called pomme d’or or “golden apple” which many sources say is “because of it’s color.” Are gold and red the same color? Hmm…
A more likely explanation for this iteration is that the word came into use after an opera by Antonio Cesti called Pomo D’oro which featured a golden apple (check in next week for Young In Rome’s explanation of “The Golden Apple and the Fig Leaf”…yes those fig leaves…).
Then there’s the French Italian fusion of pomme adoro. Can you imagine an Italian calling a fruit “Apple, I love you”? Doesn’t require too much of a stretch of the imagination in this country!
The pomodoro also contains lycopene, an antioxidant that improves the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays which is essential for those Italians baking on the beach every summer. It also prevents cardiovascular disease and is good for your heart <3. Truly the Apple of Love.
*I had to look it up and put that age old “fruit or vegetable?” question to rest. Botanically, the tomato is a berry which is a subset of fruit. Culinarily it’s used as a vegetable. Perhaps a study of the vitamins found in tomatoes would link it to one group more soundly than another… May the debate rage on.