Salad Days Trivia Quiz
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3. You say tomato, I say, Lycopersicon esculentum
What would summer be without the succulent ripe red tomato? Unlike most species that have to make do with only one scientific name, the tomato is blessed with two. The older name is Lycopersicon esculentum. What does it mean?
Your answer — A) Deadly nightshade — was incorrect.
When the tomato arrived in Europe from Central America, its resemblance to deadly nightshade convinced people that it was a dangerous plant. In German lore, deadly nightshade was associated with werewolves, so the Germans called the tomato “wolf-peach”. Linnaeus took note of this when he constructed its name from the Latin words lyco (wolf) and persicon (peach). Once it became obvious that tomatoes were not deadly, esculentum (tasty or edible) was tacked onto the name. More recently the tomato has been been given a new name, Lycopersicon lycopersicum, meaning “wolf-peachy wolf-peach”!
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