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Culinary history buffs will revel in the myriad anecdotes Alexander unearths here

Alexander chronicled his own frustrating and hilarious experiences growing tomatoes in The $64 Tomato; here he plunges into the history of this amazing fruit. Given the tomato's ubiquity in global cuisines, one might assume it's been a part of daily diets the world over since the dawn of history. But like corn, potatoes, and chocolate, tomatoes originated in the New World. The Spanish brought tomatoes to Europe in the early sixteenth century, and tomatoes appeared in Florence in 1548. In the former British colonies, they were considered practically poisonous until New Jersey farmer Robert Gibbon Johnson ate one publicly in 1820 in what later became a highly mythologized account. The rise of the canning industry in the nineteenth century preserved tomatoes on their own, in soup, or in ketchup, an American staple. Italians cultivated tomatoes in the particularly rich volcanic soils near Naples. From there, tomatoes transformed Italian (and world) cuisine with their marriage to both bread (pizza) and pasta. Culinary history buffs will revel in the myriad anecdotes Alexander unearths here.