Sixteenth Century Italian and Spanish Tomato References

by Johnnae llyn Lewis, Helewyse de Birkestad  and from
the East Kingdom Brighid ni Chiarain

 

 

Recent questions on the use of the tomato in 16th century Italian cuisine have prompted the following investigation.

 

Remembering that there was a reference embedded in the text, I dug out my copy of a work entitled Red, White and Greens. The Italian Way with Vegetables by Faith Willinger. [1996, pbk.1999]

Willinger doesn't include a bibliography but references historical material in little notes and tidbits in the text and within special text boxes.

 

What is most interesting is that she quotes M. Pietro Andrea Mattioli as mentioning the tomato

in his Discussions on Material Medicine in 1557. In addition, she states that Constanzo Felici wrote  to his "botanical pen pal Ulisse Aldrovandi" in March of 1557 that the "'pomo d'oro or pomo del

Peru... either intense yellow or vigorously red, either round or ridged in slices like a melon...' He unenthusiastically reports the vegetable fried and sprinkled with a mild vinegar (agresto), not too impressed with the '...new thing... easily more attractive than tasty.'"

This is taken from a section labeled ‘History’ in the chapter on the “Tomato” p.279.

 

So having these names to work with I turned to the Internet and found references such as:

 

MATTHIOLI [MATTIOLI], Pietro Andrea [Gregorio] who wrote among other things-- works such as I discorsi di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli ne' i sei libri della material medicinale di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo. / Pietro Andrea Matthioli [Mattioli] Venetia [Venezia] : Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1568. Our first Italian gentleman can be found on the web in a number of places.

 

Eventually, I came across “paydirt,” being a most interesting Italian website entitled "Il pomodoro". <http://www.racine.ra.it/russi/webscuola/alimamer/pomodoro.htm > which quotes a number of sources, including Mattioli and Felici.

 

I have provided the original Italian as found on the site. Helewyse de Birkestad (Louise Smithson) has graciously translated the Italian into English. Her translations follow the original text.

 

 

Pietro Andrea Mattioli

 

"Portansi ai tempi nostri d'un'altra spetie in Italia schiacciate come le mela rose e fatte a spicchi, di colore prima verde e come sono mature di color d'oro le quali pur si mangiano nel medesimo modo (delle melanzane)".

 

Translation:

One can find in our time another species in Italy segmented like a rose hip and made in segments, first of color green and when it is mature of color gold the which one eats in the same way (as the eggplant)

 

Source:
"I discorsi [...] nelli sei libri di Pedacio Dioscoride Anarzabeo della materia medicinale"

Venezia 1568

 

Translation:

The discourse in the six books of Pedacio Dioscoride Anarzabeo of medicinal material Venice 1568

 

Note:

The 1544 date as cited in the Florilegium in various messages appears highly suspect. There is a 1555 Venetian edition of this work. One possible source that might provide more material is: Pietro Andrea Mattioli : Siena, 1501-Trento, 1578 : la vita, le opere : con l'identificazione delle piante by Sara Ferri. 1997. [Ponte San Giovanni, Perugia : Quattroemme, ISBN: 8885962270]

 

 

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Costanzo Felici

 

"Pomo d'oro, così detto volgarmente dal suo intenso colore, ovvero pomo del Perù, quale o è giallo intenso ovvero è rosso gagliardamente – e questo o è tondo equalmente ovvero è distinto in fette come il melone - ancora lui da ghiotti et avidi de cose nove è desiderato nel medemo modo

et ancora fritto nella padella como l'altro, accompagnato con succo de agresto, ma al mio gusto è più presto bello che buono".

 

Translation:

Apple of gold, so called vulgarly because of its intense color, or apple of Peru, they are an intense yellow or a golden red – and this (fruit) is equal and round or distinct in slices (segments) like the melon – more him that is greedy and eager for new things desires it in the same way and also fried in the pan like the others, accompanied with vejuice, but to my taste it is more beautiful than good (tasty).

 

Source:

"De l'insalata e piante che in qualunque modo vengono per cibo de l'homo" Manoscritti del 1569-1572 raccolti a cura di Guido Arbizzoni

 

Translation:

Of the salads and plants in whatever way come for food to the man.  Manuscript of 1569 –1572 collected in the care of Guido Arbizzoni

 

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Ulisse Aldovrandi

 

"Mi è venuto certo seme per le mani, quale è qui incluso, che ve ne faccio parte acciò che nascendo sappiate dire che cosa sia. Me l'ha mandato da Pesaro M. Baldo Cortivio,gentilhuomo molto honorato e litterato e molto curioso di queste cose de' semplici. Gli è pianta che è con li rami e foglie simile al melanciano (melanzana) con il frutto simile al pomo d'oro, dico quello rosso e non il giallo, distinto in fette. il considererete, me ne direte poi la vostra opinione".

 

Translation:

To me has come certain seeds into the hand, those that here I include, in order that one grows in knowledge to say what things these are.  I gave them to Pesaro M. Baldo Cortivio, a gentleman much honored and lettered and very interested in these simple things.  The plants that have the branches (stalks) and leaves similar to the eggplant with the fruit similar to the golden apple, I talk of that red and not that yellow, with distinct segments, the consideration, I direct to your opinion.

 

Source:

Lettera, 10 marzo 1572, Bologna in Costanzo Felici "Dell'insalata e piante..." opera citata

 

Translation:

Letter, 10 March 1572, Bologna in Costanzo Felici “Of the salads and plants” reference already cited.

 

----------------------------------------------------

Castor Durante

 

"I pomi d'oro mangiansi nel medesmo modo che le melanzane con pepe, sale e olio, ma danno poco e cattivo nutrimento"

 

Translation:

The golden apple one eats in the same way as the eggplant with pepper, salt and oil, but it gives little and evil nutrition.

 

Source:

"Herbario nuovo", Roma, 1585, dall'introduzione di Piero Camporesi a "La scienza in cucina e l'arte del mangiare bene" di Pellegrino Artusi

 

Translation:

New herbal, Rome 1585, from the introduction of Piero Camporesi to “The science in cooking and the art of eating well” of Pellegrino Artusi

 

------------------------------

 

José de Acosta

 

"Per temperare il sapore del peperoncino si ricorre al sale, che lo

corregge molto, perché essi sono molto diversi l'uno dall'altro e i loro

effetti si frenano reciprocamente, ma si ricorre pure alle tomate che

sono fresche e sane e sono delle specie di grossi acini sugosi, che

fanno delle salse saporite, ma sono ugualmente buone da mangiarsi da

sole".

 

Translation of the Italian:

To temper the taste of the hot pepper (little pepper) one gathers in the salt, that it corrects much, because they are very diverse each from the other and their effect corrects it, but if one gathers otherwise from the tomatoes that are fresh and healthy and are of the species large, clustered and juicy, that comes from them the sauce flavorful, but are equally good to eat alone.

 

 

Source:

"Historia moral y natural de las Indias Ocidentales", Siviglia, 1589,

dalla traduzione di J. Remy-Zephir, Parigi, 1979

 

Translation:

History moral and natural of the west indias,

Siviglia 1589, from the translation by J. Remy-Zephir,

Paris 1979

 

------------------------------------------------

 

This last description from José de Acosta comes from a Spanish text originally. Brighid ni Chiarain (Robin Carroll-Mann) has kindly provided the following text and translation for this related Spanish source.

 

Source:

< http://cervantesvirtual.com/FichaObra.html?portal=0&Ref=000600 >

Jose de Acosta, _Historia natural y moral de las Indias_ (1590)

Digital edition taken from Obras del Padre José de Acosta, Madrid, Atlas, 1954, pp. 2-247.

From Chapter XX:

 

Original Text:

Hay ají de diversos colores: verde, colorado y amarillo; hay uno bravo, que llaman

caribe, que pica y muerde reciamente; otro hay manso, y alguno dulce que se come a

bocados. Alguno menudo hay que huele en la boca como almizcle, y es muy bueno.

Lo que pica del ají es las venillas y pepita; lo demás no muerde: cómese verde y

seco, y molido y entero, y en la olla y en guisados...

Para templar el ají usan de sal, que le corrige mucho, porque son entre sí muy

contrarios, y el uno al otro se enfrenan; usan también tomates, que son frescos y

sanos, y es un género de granos gruesos jugosos, y hacen gustosa salsa, y por sí son

buenos de comer. Hállase esta pimienta de Indias universalmente en todas ellas, en

las islas, en Nueva España, en Perú y en todo lo demás descubierto; de modo que,

como el maíz es el grano más general para el pan, así el ají es la especia más común

para salsa y guisados.

 

Translation:

There are chilis of diverse colors: green, red, and yellow; there is a fierce one, that

they call 'caribe', that stings and bites severely; there is another which is temperate,

and somewhat sweet which is eaten as tidbits. There is a small one which smells like

musk in the mouth, and is very good. In the chili, that which stings is the veins and

the seed; the rest of it does not bite: it is eaten green and dried, and ground and

whole, and in the pot and in stews...

To temper the chili they use salt, which corrects it a great deal, because they are

contrary to each other, and each one restrains the other; they also use tomatoes,

which are fresh and healthy, and are a kind of large juicy seeds, and make a tasty

sauce, and are good to eat by themselves. This pepper is found universally

throughout the Indies: in the islands, in New Spain, in Peru, and in all the rest that

has been discovered; so just as maize is the most common grain for bread, the chili is

likewise the most common spice for sauce and stews.

 

--------------------------

Thinking that we should perhaps to put all our tomatoes in one basket, Brighid was pleased to also add this reference that she contributed to the discussion on SCA-Cooks back in November, 2000.

 

Source:

http://cervantesvirtual.com/FichaObra.html?portal=0&Ref=001098

Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1514-1575), _Cronica de la Nueva España_

edited by Manuel Magallón ; preliminary study and indices by Agustín

Millares Carlo. {PRIVATE}Digital edition based on the edition of Madrid, Atlas, 1971.

From chapter VI:

 

Original text:

El agí sirve de especia en estas partes; es caliente, ayuda a la digestión y

a la cámara; es apetitoso, y de manera que los más guisados y salsas se

hacen con él; usan dél no menos los españoles que los indios. Hay unos

agíes colorados y otros amarillos; éstos son los maduros, porque los que

no lo son, están verdes, hay unos que queman más que otros. Los

tomates son mayores que agraces; tienen su sabor, aunque no tan agrio;

hay unos del tamaño que dixe, y otros grandes, mayores que limas,

amarillos y colorados; échanse en las salsas y potajes para templar el

calor del agí.

 

Translation:

"The chile serves as spice in these regions; it is hot, aids the digestion,

and the evacuation of stool; it is appetizing, and in such a manner that

most of the stews and sauces are made with it; the Spaniards use it no

less than the Indians. There are some red chiles, and others which are

yellow; these are the mature ones, for those which are not [mature] are

green, there are some which burn more than the others. The tomatoes are

bigger than unripe grapes, they have their [same] flavor, although not as

sour; there are some which are the size I said, and others that are big,

larger than limes, yellow ones and red ones; they cast them in the sauces

and pottages to temper the heat of the chile." 

 

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We sincerely hope that this helps answer some of the questions regarding the subject of tomatoes. It should be noted that while these various references mention tomatoes and even that one eats them as one does eggplant, it is probable that when or if they were eaten, it was more as a matter of curiosity. They were by no means a staple dish or foodstuff. As regards the Spanish sources and the last mentioned Italian source, it should be noted that these sources are referring to food habits *in the New World*.  When Cervantes de Salazar says that the Spaniards are eating tomatoes and sauces with chili, he means the Spaniards in New Spain (Mexico).  That is not proof that such items were being consumed in the Europe of the Old World.

 

Reference work and editing by: Johnnae llyn Lewis    Johnna Holloway.  17 July 2002

Italian Translations by:  Helewyse de Birkestad   Louise Smithson. 18 July 2002

Spanish Source and Translation: Brighid ni Chiarain   Robin Carroll-Mann.   18 July 2002

 

Copyright by the authors. 2002.

 

Johnnae llyn Lewis  Johnna Holloway

johnna@sitka.engin.umich.edu

 

Helewyse de Birkestad   Louise Smithson

smithson@mco.edu

 

Brighid ni Chiarain Robin Carroll-Mann

rcmann4@earthlink.net