Posted on 02 May 2008 by

“Wolf Peaches” and Other Strange Tomato Superstitions

Wolf PeachesBy Vanessa Richins

As with all good things in life, there are many superstitions connected to our beloved tomato.

Have you ever wondered why tomatoes were given the scientific name of Lycopersicon esculentum?

It stems from old German folklore. It was believed that members of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, were used by witches to produce werewolves.

This practice is known as lycanthropy. Indeed, the common German word for tomato translates to “wolf peach”. Linnaeus, the man who created the current scientific naming system of binomial nomenclature, recalled this legend and gave the tomato the name Lycopersicon esculentum.

This name translates to “edible wolf peach.”

It is said that if you place a large red tomato on your windowsill, it will scare away evil spirits. You could also choose to place it over the hearth — this is supposed to bring prosperity to the house. Another way to gain money is to place a tomato peeling over your door, which will bring money within four days.

The tomato was thought to be an aphrodisiac, earning it the nickname of “love apple.” Ozark superstition states that seasons with good tomato production are bad years for walnuts.

Using tomato juice on your hair will supposedly cause it to grow faster. A love of tomatoes used to be considered a sign that a person had “cancer-blood” in their body and were hastening the disease by eating them.

Some claim that hanging dried tomato leaves in a window will keep away winged insects.

Are there any other interesting superstitions and legends you have heard of?

6 Responses to ““Wolf Peaches” and Other Strange Tomato Superstitions”

  1. Nancy Bond Says:

    Very interesting — I gotta go peel some tomatoes!! 😉

  2. our friend Ben Says:

    Wow Vanessa, how fascinating! I had no idea. But, um, somebody else is going to have to hang up that tomato peel and report on the findings. Eeeewwww!!! However, if my tomato-loving dog Molly or my tomato-fanatic chickens start turning into werewolves (or werefowl, for that matter), you’ll be the firts to know!

  3. cindee Says:

    Wow those are interesting superstitions. I need to peel some tomatos for my door too(-: That wolf looks like he has a smile on his face….thinking of tomatos no doubt(-:

  4. sophia Says:

    if you eat a tomato that has grown to another tomato such as a heart looking one known as a double tomato, it will bring you good luck…i front of me now i have a quad tomato. I am not sure if this brings good luck or if brings bad luck but we shall see!

  5. Sy Says:

    German is my field and the common word for tomato in German is not translated into wolf peach. Sorry!! The common word for tomato in German is Tomate. Now in Austria one may hear the word “Paradeisapfel” which when translated is Paradise Apple.
    Eine Tomate schmeckt mir himmlisch!!!

  6. BB Says:

    Sy is correct. The origin of “wolf peach” is in the original Latin name for the species “lycopersicum”, from lyco (wolf) and persicum (peach).

    In 1753, Linnaeus placed the tomato in the genus Solanum (alongside the potato) as Solanum lycopersicum. In 1768, Philip Miller moved it to its own genus, naming it Lycopersicon esculentum.

    This name came into wide use, but was in breach of the plant naming rules. Technically, the name Lycopersicon lycopersicum would be more correct, but is rarely used.

    Genetic evidence has now shown that Linnaeus was correct to put the tomato in the genus Solanum, making Solanum lycopersicum the correct name.

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