The Origin of the Domestic Tomato
I have a great interest in the origin of common foods. I am especially interested in those that originated in the New World, such as corn, avocados, peanuts, pineapples, chili peppers, and quinoa. Now a study of the genome of the domestic tomato gives information on its place of origin. It appears that tomatoes that were blue-berry size originated in modern-day Ecuador, with variants making their way to Meso-America on the Mexican Plateau, and then another movement to the Yucatan Peninsula where the larger varieties were developed. You can read a summary of the study here. The scientific abstract can be found here. On my computer, I could click on the PDF link and obtain the entire scientific paper.
Tomato domestication history is generally depicted as a “two-step” process with an increase in fruit size from blueberry-sized SP to generally cherry-sized SLC, and then to the very large-fruited common tomatoes (SLL) consumed around the world. All the signs from the study analyses pointed to the intermediate group (SLC) emerging in Ecuador—far earlier than human domestication— then spreading out northward over time, suggesting that human use of SLC came much later. They reconstructed a putative domestication history of tomato groups, focusing especially on the under-explored intermediate stage represented by SLC. They found that SLC originated in Ecuador probably as a wild species over 78 KYA, likely as a vicariance event that separated more coastal SP populations from inland emerging SLC.
Credit: Hamid Razifard, University of Massachusetts, Amherst