Would the ancient Mediterranean have liked tomatoes?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Night Gaul, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. Night Gaul Well-Known Member

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    Much like potatoes in Northern Europe, tomatoes are such a staple of Mediterranean cuisine that it's easy to forget they only started eating them after the Columbian exchange. Up until very late 15th century - at the absolute earliest - there were no tomatoes in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria, or any of the other Mediterranean countries where it's almost imaginable that there was a time when they weren't part of their diet. Certainly, there were no tomatoes in the cuisines of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Israel, etc.

    Suppose the ancient Mediterranean were to somehow acquire tomatoes. Would they have liked them? If so, how would they have been eaten?
     
  2. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    They may be pretty hesitant at first, just as in OTL. It is a member of the nightshade family after all. But i can imagine it spreading two ways. Either its seen as a luxury/delicacy and so it trickles down from high society, or more like OTL its its something that the poorer folks eat because of the avoiding the imagined health hazard
     
  3. The Professor Pontifex Collegii Vexillographiariorum

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    Tomato based sauces would have proved just as popular as today.
    More varieties and more fermented products also seem likely considering time and inclination.
     
  4. Glory2Cabinda Well-Known Member

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    Yes can be used to make sauce and maybe alcohol the seeds could be preserved has a food stuff.
     
  5. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Getting tomatoes to Europe is the tricky part but here goes. A Native American gets on a boat of some sort and like tomatoes and so brings them along to eat. A storm approaches and with everything going his way the tomatoes arrive in Europe half-rotted but some of the seeds survive and when the tomato drops on the ground in Europe somehow, the seeds sprout. A few tomato plants survive and spread slowly through Europe over the centuries. Someone figures out they are edible. Let us say they sprout in Spain in the year 40 BC and reach Italia by 40 AD.
     
  6. Dolan Lookin fer Gooby

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    We would get authentic Roman Pizza, with Tomato!

    I imagine the tomato juice itself would end up mixed with wine though, it's a pretty surprisingly refreshing drink.
     
  7. Jimbo808 Well-Known Member

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    Would the ancient Mediterranean be too wet for the tomato? The Mediterranean world around the time of the Roman expansion and empire was a lot wetter than it is now.
     
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  8. Nephi Well-Known Member

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    Tomatoes actually make fantastic wine.
     
  9. water123 Really bad at names

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    Tomatoes are one of the most versatile and useful and delicious vegetables. You dont like tomatoes one way? That's fine, have five million others.
     
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  10. water123 Really bad at names

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  11. Musadutoe Well-Known Member

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    Tomatoes would have been embraced. The Romans would have found a thousand ways to incorporate them into their meals. The Patricians would have taken it to a whole new level. The unami taste would have been embraced.
     
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  12. stevej713 Well-Known Member

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    Considering how the average Roman was chronically malnourished, I imagine any new source of food would have been very welcome. As for the aristocracy, they prided themselves on eating just about anything - the more exotic, the better. However, the Roman palette was significantly different from today - I seem to recall watching a show where modern Italians tried garum and were virtually gagging on it. Therefore, I doubt the Romans would have started creating the Italian food we all know and love today.
     
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  13. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

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    Better yet, these Caribbean Indians (or whoever) end up spreading tomatoes to the Canaries. They spread in those islands and get renowned as a local specialty which increases trade between the Canaries and the mainland. The Romans seize on this and seize direct control over coastal modern Morocco and keeping the Canaries under their thumb like they did Ireland (which has huge effects on the Canaries economically). Mauretania and Iberia become the early centers of tomato production which has huge ramifications on the development of the Roman economy and later development of those regions.

    True. I can't stand tomatoes unless they're incorporated in a sauce/garnish, like how some kebabs are cooked or in curries (although really tomato-y dishes like Iskander kebab or especially some vindaloos bother me). It's interesting the distribution of tomato dishes in the Mediterranean--North Africa, Egypt, Iberia, the Levant, Turkey, the Balkans, Italy, Iberia, and everywhere else found ways to make use of tomatoes yet in different ways.
     
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  14. Dolan Lookin fer Gooby

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    So... (Classical) Roman Palate is actually closer to British? Because they are the only one who produce a notable fish sauce (Worcestershire) and consume a lot of fish sauce within recent memories outside of East and Southeast Asia.
     
  15. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Let's go that route if you think it is better.
     
  16. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

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    you'd think that they'd like tomatoes just because they are new and different tasting and once you got them established, wouldn't be expensive. They are a bit more labor intensive than potatoes, but not that much more. I'm curious as to just what nutritional value they have outside of taste... are they a source of any particular nutrients that are scarce in Europe at the time?
     
  17. The Professor Pontifex Collegii Vexillographiariorum

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    They're a moderate source of vitamin C.
     
  18. Nephi Well-Known Member

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    You're probably just haven't found the right one.

    They can be terrible, or delicious. Beef steak tomatoes are fantastic with a little salt and pepper. The little cherry ones are wonderful by themself.

    But if I had to eat a standard grocery store one they're vile. Absolutely vile.

    The other day I bought two labled as "beefsteak" tomatoes. They were just large red shitty standard tomatoes, I didn't find out till I bit in.
     
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  19. SeaCambrian Alien Space Bat

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    As far as New World crops go, potatoes for growth in colder soils, and chili peppers for vitamin C, could be really significant changes to the Roman diet and economy. Tomatoes would be big but not as much as those two.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  20. Frrf Well-Known Member

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    They're useful, relatively easy to grow, and the acidity of tomato puree enhances the flavour of tomato-based sauces, so, yes.