From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Jefferson first mentions tomatoes in Query VI of his Notes on the State of Virginia: "The gardens yield muskmelons, watermelons, tomatas, okra, pomegranates, figs, and the esculant plants of Europe." [1] One of our research historians surmises that, since Jefferson mentioned them only briefly in a list instead of mentioning them in particular, that they were nothing unusual (at least to him). He recorded planting tomatoes all of the years that he kept his Garden Book Kalendar (1809-1824), and included them in his chart of vegetables sold in the markets in Washington, D.C.[2] Tomatoes commonly appear in the Jefferson family recipe collections.

Poisonous Tomato

Jefferson himself never mentioned the belief by some that tomatoes were poisonous. There is a story that, on a visit to Lynchburg, he terrified one of the locals when he paused to snack on a tomato on the steps of the Miller-Claytor house. This story appears in the book Saga of a City: Lynchburg, Virginia, 1786-1936[3] but our researchers have found no proof that this incident ever happened.


  1. Peden, Notes, 43.
  2. See
  3. Saga of a City: Lynchburg, Virginia, 1786-1936 (Lynchburg, Va.: Lynchburg Sesqui-Centennial Association, 1936), 57-59.

Further Sources