Saturday, August 30, 2008


Lycopersicomancy: Divination through tomatoes. It stands to reason that someone who tries to read messages in Tater Bug markings and mouse scratchings would stop and look at this tomato and wonder what it means.

This year, I tried an old-time tomato variety called "Cherokee Purple." We've been very pleased with the tomatoes, which are dark red with green shoulders. The only thing is, most of the plants produce double, triple, and I-don't-know-how-many fused tomatoes, growing in strange spirals.

A local character is supposed to have remarked, at the sight of something strange, "It's a sign. I don't know what it means, but it's a sign." That's the way I feel about these tomatoes. On one hand, perhaps they have predicted correctly a good tomato yield--blight-free, insect resistant plants and firm, juicy, dark-fleshed tomatoes--delicious fresh and excellent in sauces. On the other hand, they might foretell the End Times.

Whatever the message, I had to make up the term Lycopersicomancy. The Romans had no tomatoes, not for salads, sauces, or augury. It wasn't until long after Latin dropped out of daily use that Europeans named these American fruits lycopersicum, which means "wolf peach." When I checked spelling on the scientific name at the USDA Plants Database, I was surprised to discover that we're back to Linnaeus's name, Solanum lycopersicum L. Botany Photo of the Day explains (with taxonomic references):

The scientific name for the tomato in general use for over two hundred years was Lycopersicon esculentum. However, molecular studies in the past fifteen or so years have helped to shift the name back to the one originally assigned by Linnaeus, Solanum lycopersicon.


k-brow said...

Here's a link to a song for you. Alas, I could find no performance video. I think it surely must be on iTunes, though.

Tomatoes in Hawaii are not as good as the Virginia homegrowns I ate earlier this summer. sigh. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Reya Mellicker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reya Mellicker said...

We humans are hard wired to divine from all kinds of shapes. I find the leftovers from bowls of soup and stew to be particularly accessible. Tea leaf reading is very easy, too.

The only food I have been unable to 'read' is sushi. Sushiomancy is, apparently a yet to be discovered divination art.

Beautiful tomato! What is it telling you? Something about the power of four, I think. Possibly it is referring to your house raising?

(had to delete my first attempt at commenting ... too many typos.)

Rebecca Clayton said...

Loved the song, K-Brow!

Interesting, Reya! I didn't notice the 4-fold-ness of the tomato, because I was so fascinated by the helix it forms around the stem. The garden's next to the new house, which is all about rectangles and right angles (unlike our old house, which seems to have no right angles at all!).

trillwing said...

Awesome tomato. I tried to grow Cherokee purples last year with no luck, but they're among my favorite tomatoes, both because of their colors and their taste.

I grew a few stunted stalks of corn this year. Today I harvested the second tiny ear, and it was bizarre. I should have taken photos of it as I dissected it, but basically it had swollen, misshapen kernels that appeared to contain the same soil in which the corn is growing. Fascinating--it was hard not to practice some "zea-mays-mancy."