This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Lycopersicum ("Wolf's Peach") is the significant name of the passion-rousing Tomato, a native of South America, bearing fruit of a peculiar subacid flavour, wihch is anti-scorbutic, whilst somewhat laxative, and nutritious, except for gouty persons. Of such extensive use as a vegetable food is the Tomato nowadays by all classes, that it needs no literary description here. The succulent, brilliantly red, polished, furrowed, attractive fruit is familiar in every greengrocer's window, and on many a huckster's stall of green-stuff, especially in crowded streets, for purchase by working people. Much of the favour which has become attached to this ruddy vegetable production is due to a widespread impression that it is good for the liver, and corrective of biliary disorders. At first the Tomato fruit was known as "Mala AEthiopica," or the "Apple of the moors," which therefore bore an Italian designation, "Pomei dei mori." This name was presently perverted in French to "Pommes d'amour," and thence in English to "Love-apple." In the United States of America until about the year 1830 the Tomato was known only as a curiosity.
Chemically the Tomato (or Love-apple) contains citric, and malic acids; also it further possesses oxalic acid, or oxalate of potash, in common with our sorrel (wild, and cultivated), and the rhubarb of our kitchen gardens. As already explained when describing these latter vegetables, they are ill-suited on this account for persons of gouty tendencies, and who are disposed to the formation of worrying oxalates of lime in the blood. Equally so is the Tomato by reason of its oxalic attributes; otherwise there are special qualities in Tomatoes which make them of purifying value as food. The shrub which bears this fruit contains sulphur largely, of which the Tomatoes partake. But nothing exists of the two poisonous alkaloids - atropine, and solanine (both contained by the stem, and leaves) - in the fruit. The best Tomatoes are supposed to grow within sight, or smell of the sea. A gardener's hands, when training the plants, become covered with the clammy, greenish moisture thereof, which dries on them in successive coats; when the hands are washed the stuff comes off by degrees, dyeing the water a bright yellow colour, and quite four washings are needed before this matter can be all removed.
Our American cousins persuade themselves that they are never in such perfect health as during the Tomato season; and with ourselves this comparatively modern vegetable has become valued, not simply as a refreshing, cooling salad, or when appetizingly stewed, but essentially as a reputed antibilious article of salutary nutriment. As to any risk of contracting cancerous disease from a free, or habitual indulgence in Tomatoes, the staff of the Cancer Hospitals altogether repudiate the supposition, "seeing no ground whatever for entertaining any such charge." Possibly on the old doctrine of signatures it may have first been suggested as an accusation against the Tomato that its frequent use for food will engender cancerous disease; since it is manifest that the fruit bears a nodulated, tumour-like aspect, whilst showing, when cut into, an appearance of red, raw, morbid, fleshy structure which strongly resembles cancerous diseased flesh, or tumour growth in the human subject. As far as scientific research into the nature, causes, and possible cure of cancer yet pronounces, a certain cellular, and molecular perversion constitutes the dire disease, rather than any toxic, or destructive special work of microbes; so that drugs, or food principles would seem beyond the mark with curative aims.
A very remarkable, and highly suggestive fact which bears on this vital question is that the cells of malignant growths have only half that number within themselves of "chromosomes," which is found to be absolutely entire in the normal healthy cells of all the higher animals, and plants. The "chromosomes" are minute, rod-shaped bodies, which under experiment take up the stain of various aniline dyes. This discovery has been placed before the Royal Society by three exponents. Also a further announcement is now. made, on the highest authority, that cancer has been detected in fishes, precisely similar to the cancer which invades human beings; which fact opens a new field of research under quite distinct conditions, and promises an important extension of knowledge about the disease.
Chemically, also, in addition to the acids already named, the Tomato contains a volatile oil, with a brown, resinous, extractive matter which is very fragrant, a vegeto-mineral matter, muco-saccharin, some mineral salts, and in all probability an alkaloid.
The whole plant smells unpleasantly, and its juices, when subject to heat by the action of fire, emit a vapour so powerful as to provoke, if inspired, vertigo, and vomiting. The specific principles furnished by the Tomato will, when concentrated, if taken medicinally, produce effects very similar to those which follow the administration of mercurial salts, viz., a sore state of the gums, with a profuse flow of saliva, and with very active stimulation of the liver; some peevishness is felt on the following day, with a depressing backache, almost suggesting paralysis. The fruit, if given in studied moderation as food, or as physic, will remedy this train of symptoms when due to other idiopathic causes. Some of the American physicians declare the Tomato to be the most useful, and benign medicament known for correcting derangements of the liver. They have caused an extract of the fruit to be prepared by manufacturing chemists which, it is confidently predicted, will depose calomel for the future. This extract proves curative of an ulcerated sore mouth, such as nurses suffer from, or canker; it is given internally for this purpose, and applied topically to the sore parts.
Likewise, foul, unhealthy ulcers may be cleansed, and their healing promoted, by a Tomato poultice, this being repeated as often as the sore seems to need such attention. The poultice should be freshly made each time, and applied hot. Again, a tincture is made from the Tomato for curative purposes by treating its apples with alcohol, and letting this stand (including some of the leaves) for eight days before it is strained, and filtered. A teaspoonful of the tincture is a sufficient dose, two or three times in the day, together with half a wineglassful of cold water. Spaniards, and Italians eat Tomatoes with oil, and pepper; we take them frequently stewed with butter,. after splitting, and stuffing them with bread-crumb, and a spice of garlic.