There was a wildly fun time between 1300 and 1650 in Europe, where thousands of people were executed for being witches. A lot of us are aware of that bit of history, but the part that’s not often talked about, is the tomato’s role in this “witch craze.”
In these days, witch hunters believed that tomatoes were a main ingredient in the ointment witches used to power their flying broomsticks. Not even kidding.
The pope’s physician Andres Laguna in 1545, officially declared that the ingredients in this witch cream were hemlock, nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Since nightshade, henbane and mandrake have some similar characteristics as tomatoes, and hunters really didn’t know the differences, they basically just said, “F*ck it, this ointment is made of tomatoes.”
Keep in mind, Tomatoes were a fairly new vegetable in Europe at the time, being imported there in 1540, so they had some trust issues with it.
It’s an honest mistake, but who needs sound information when you can just make wild accusations that affect the lives of thousands of people?
You’re probably wondering why any woman would even have such a specific ointment in their possession, and Atlas Obscura suggested it was either used as a painkiller, or they didn’t have it, and were accused of it anyway, which is perfectly reasonable.
This fear of tomatoes went on for a while, as in the 1700s, the tomato’s nickname was the “poison apple,” as people believed they poisoned and killed people upon eating it, according to Smithsonian.
Up until 1860, when the US Civil War started hyping up tomatoes as delicious, Europeans literally thought tomatoes were evil.
Thankfully, we have a better relationship with tomatoes now, giving us key, everyday uses such as ketchup, pizza sauce, and a movie rating system. No more tomato-powered broomsticks.
h/t atlas obscura