If you're a tomato lover, you owe a debt of gratitude to anonymous Mayan farmers in what is now Belize, Guatemala or southern Mexico who, several thousand years ago, domesticated S. cerasiforme, the original wild tomato. (This pea-sized wild tomato came from Peru and Chile, but for some reason was never successfully domesticated there.) The pre-Columbian farmers developed tomatoes that were similar to the varieties we eat today. By the time the Spanish came to Mexico and Meso-America in the early 1500s, tomatoes had become an important part of the local diet. Aztec writings describe a popular dish of hot peppers, salt and tomatls -- in other words, salsa.

The Spanish took tomatoes back to Europe, and by the early 18th century pomodori had become a staple of southern Italian cooking. In the U.S., the fruit was called by a version of its Mexican name, tomate, but many considered it poisonous. An Ohio man, Alexander Livingston, was instrumental in making the domesticated tomato, S. lycopersicum, universally popular in America. In the mid-19th century, he bred and cross-bred tomatoes until he came up with a smooth-skinned, large and perfectly round variety, Paragon, which amazingly is still available in seed catalogs today.

by Lan Sluder of http://BelizeFirst.com