Elizabeth Andoh: A Taste of Culture – Tomatoes

Originating in Mesoamerica about 7,000 years ago, tomatoes arrived in Japan early in the Edo period (1603-1868) having traveled the globe and being domesticated along the way. The painting above by Kanō Tan’yū 狩野探幽 (1602-1674 AD) shows an ornamental variety of tomato that was labelled togaki, 唐柿, literally “Chinese persimmon.”

It wasn’t until the Meiji period (1868-1912), though, that tomatoes, along with other vegetables from the West such as round cabbages and lettuce, were really consumed in Japan. One of the early references to eating tomatoes appeared as a recipe for tomato stew in the November 1894 issue of Fujin Zasshi (Women’s Magazine), a popular periodical. It was common for tomatoes at that time to be blanched and peeled, often pureed and made into a sauce. Kagome, the largest producer of tomato products in Japan today, launched its ketchup in 1908.

It would be early Showa (1926-1989) before eating raw tomatoes became popular. Today Japanese markets are filled with tomatoes best suited to tucking into bentō or used in salads, from candy-sweet, petite varieties such as Hatsukoi (“first love”) to plump, sweet-and-tangy Momotaro (named after a popular folklore hero).

Visit my KITCHEN CULTURE Blog to learn more about TOMATOES in JAPAN. Then visit my Kitchen Culture Cooking Club where you’ll find all sorts if resources for making tomato salads for great summertime eating!


Stay connected.

I’m looking forward to your comments on the items I post to my Facebook page!

Follow me on Twitter!

I do hope you like it!

Elizabeth Andoh A Taste of Culture Culinary Arts Program Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0095, Japan


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.