Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Tomato Story

"H AVE another tomato, Johnny," said Grandma, as she saw the last red slice disappear from Johnny's plate; "I think you like tomatoes."

"I do," said Johnny; "I like them raw, and stewed, and baked, and 'most any way."

"Didn't you like tomatoes when you were little, Grandma?" Johnny asked, as he saw Grandma looking down at her plate with a smile in her eyes.

"No," Grandma said, "but that was because I was a big girl before I ever tasted one. I never saw any until I was thirteen years old.

"I can remember it so well. A peddler who came by our farm once a month, bringing buttons and thread and such little things to sell, brought the seed to mother.

"He used to carry seeds and cuttings of plants from one farmer's wife to the next, and they liked to see him come. He could tell all the news, too, from up the road and down.

"One spring morning he came, and after mother had bought all she needed from his big, red wagon, and he had fed his horse and was sitting by the kitchen fire waiting for his dinner, he began fumbling about in his pockets in search of something. Finally he drew out a very small package, and handed it to mother.

" 'I've brought you some love-apple seeds,' he said. 'I got them in the city, and I gave my sister half and brought half to you.'

" 'Thank you, kindly,' mother said, as she looked at the little yellow seeds. 'I'm right glad to get them. What kind of a plant is the love-apple?'

" 'Well,' said the peddler, 'the man who gave the seeds to me had his plants last year in a sunny fence corner. The flowers are small, but the fruit is bright red, and is very pretty among the dark-green leaves. You can't eat the fruit, though—it's poisonous. It's something new—the man who gave me the seeds got them from a captain of a ship from South America. They grow wild there.'

"So mother planted her love-apple seeds in a warm fence corner, and they grew, and the little yellow blossoms came, and after them the pretty red fruit. We children would go out and look at it, and talk about it, and wonder if it would hurt us if we just tasted it.

"One day mother heard us talking about it, and she called us away, and told us if we could not be satisfied with the pretty red fruit just to look at, without wanting to eat it, she would have to pull up the love-apple vines and throw them away, for the peddler had said it was poisonous.

"We knew she would hate to do that, for no one else about had them, so we kept away from the fence corner, and the vine grew and blossomed, and the red showed in new places every day. The birds did not seem to be at all afraid of the poison fruit, but ate all they wanted of it.

"One day, in the early fall, my uncle came from New York to make us a visit. When he went out in the garden he stopped in surprise. 'Why, Mary,' he said, 'what fine tomato vines you have! Where did you get them?'

" 'We call them love-apples,' mother said, and then she told him how the peddler brought the seed. But when my uncle found that we were afraid to eat them he had a hearty laugh, and then he showed mother how to get some ready for supper. And that was my first taste of tomato, Johnny," Grandma said, "and you shall have some for supper fixed the same way—with cream and sugar."

— "Youth's Companion"