Posted on 06 August 2007 by tomatocasual.com

“Whore’s Apple”: The Tomato’s Unkosher History

Whore's Apple: TheTomato's Unkosher Past - TomatoCasual.comBy Tomato Queen

You would think that the tomato would have been lustily embraced by my people, the Jews, since they first popped them into their mouths.

And in a way, this is true.

Now a thriving staple of Israel‘s diet, economy and food culture, the tomato was once considered so bloody a fruit that it was deemed unkosher.

Middle Eastern Jews had to buy tomatoes from their Arab neighbors.

Indeed, the religious supervision of animal slaughter and blooded food is still a serious business to Jews.

According to journalist Lauren Gelfond, the juicy, bloody tomato so passionately adopted by the French and Italians and Spanish and Germans as having aphrodisiac properties, “the love apple,” became known to 19th Century Hassidic communities as the “trefeine apil,” or “forbidden apple.”

Gelfond writes that the Hebrew word agvania is first documented as having been ascribed to the tomato in the 1870s by etymologist Yechiel Michal Pines.

Based on the root letters ayin, gimmel and bet, agvania has a distinctly whorish connotation; it is associated with lust, prostitution, flirtation, and the body rather than love.

Just the word agvania was considered too scandalous to use in writing.

While the presence of the actual tomato grew popular in both Europe and the Middle East, Jewish presses and scholars avoided use of the illicit word altogether for decades.

We can only surmise that the women preparing them, and the men eating them, used the word a little more freely; because the alternates suggested by scholars for “blushing” or “love” apples never took.

Only in 1930 did the official Language Board officially adopt the whorish, immodest agvania into the Hebrew language.

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