The “Poisonous” Tomatoes of Salem, NJ

Many Americans during the early 1800’s believed tomatoes to be poisonous. In late September of 1820, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson told the people of Salem, New Jersey that he would eat a basket of tomatoes to prove that they were not poisonous. On the 28th of September, he ate all of the tomatoes as promised. Beginning on the 29th of September, he suffered from diarrhea and lycopenemia. No one in Salem, not even Colonel Johnson, ate another tomato until 1829.


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