During our weekly visit to our greengrocer Theo at the Lindengracht market, on a sunny spring afternoon in May, we were given six tomato plants to take home. Theo grows his own vegetables at ‘Theo’s tuin’ in Amsterdam West. During the winter months he collects seeds in preparation for next growing season and last autnum he collected seeds of pomodori tomatoes in Sicily. The plants he grew from the seeds are Theo’s hope for a new flavor-cracker. The overwhelming germination of these ‘love apples’ (the meaning of pomodori in Italian) gave us possibility to grow our own harvest. In our sunny city garden and a reasonable summer, our pomodori’s transformed into all sorts and different varieties from long red ones to miniature-sized sweet yellow berries.
During the years 2017 and 2018, de Onkruidenier resided in Maastricht, where we made our daily walks along the river Maas between our home in Nazareth and the studio at the Jan van Eyck academy in the city center. With the exceptional warm summer, lushly tomato plants almost made bushy vines and shot up along the river amongst the grass. Maybe seeds from greenhouse tomatoes enter the rivers through the open sewers and with the warm temperatures can easily germinate and produce mature tomatoes. A hyper-cultivated greenhouse tomato is about to establish itself in a new landscape – a naturalized greenhouse tomato in a biotope of the Dutch landscape.
Nineteenth century explorer Alexander von Humboldt undoubtedly encountered the ancestors of our greenhouse tomato during his travels in South America. Von Humboldt even named a wild tomato (Lycopersicon humbodltii). In more and more places in the Netherlands, the escaped greenhouse tomato seeds succeeds in making offspring in nature. The Onkruidenier also came across specimens along the Dommel in Eindhoven! Partly due to the warm and sunny summer of 2018, the tomatoes managed to ripen and propagate without any human interference. This tomato, which has its origins in the Andes Mountains and is originally small as a marble and yellow in color, made its appearance in Europe after the Spaniards brought the tomato from South America. Only after the Second World War did we in the Netherlands become addicted to this fruit, which we still call vegetable because of a ruling by an American court regarding raising more taxes. Meanwhile, the tomato is the most widely eaten vegetable in the world, fully adapted to growing in the greenhouse at a constant temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, a controlled amount of water and some nutrients. Seeds of the greenhouse tomato have escaped into open water systems and have found places to grow along canals, river floodplains and increasingly between paving stones. On a genetic level, the greenhouse cultivated tomatoes no longer resemble the tomato from the Andes Mountains. It has become a different kind of plant, also mentioned in the Flora of the Netherlands, but its status has been classified as ‘non-native’ since its first mention in the flora. Should we consider this tomato. that can reach lengths of up to 150 centimeters, an invasive exotic species? How should we deal with this? Is it not evident that this species, which escaped from a human-dominated system, should have its own form of classification? With the increasing sense of forms and relations towards nature, would it not be desirable to renew our ideas of classification and not rely on terms such as native and non-native, exotic, cultivar, hybrid and cross breed?