Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World: A History

Written by William Alexander

From Grand Central Publishing:

New York Times bestselling author William Alexander takes readers on the surprisingly twisty journey of the beloved tomato in this fascinating and erudite microhistory.

The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Lost in the dustbin of history for centuries, accused of being vile and poisonous, subjected to being picked hard-green and gassed, even used as a projectile, the poor tomato has become the avatar for our disaffection with industrial foods — while becoming the most popular vegetable in America (and, in fact, the world). Each summer, tomato festivals crop up across the country; the Heinz ketchup bottle, instantly recognizable, has earned a spot in the Smithsonian; and now the tomato is redefining the very nature of farming, moving from fields into climate-controlled mega-greenhouses the size of New England villages.

Supported by meticulous research and told in a lively, accessible voice, Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World seamlessly weaves travel, history, humor, and a little adventure (and misadventure) to follow the tomato’s trail through history. A fascinating story complete with heroes, con artists, conquistadors, and—no surprise—the Mafia, this book is a mouth-watering, informative, and entertaining guide to the food that has captured our hearts for generations.


“William Alexander takes readers on a world tour through history, from the tomato’s regional origins in Mexico to its ubiquitousness in the present day. Along the way, his play sense of humor makes his book endlessly surprising.”―Bookpage, starred review

“Culinary history buffs will revel in the myriad anecdotes Alexander unearths here.”―Booklist

“[A]n engaging look at the humble fruit. . . Eccentric, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable.”―Kirkus Reviews

“[O]ne of the most delightful history books of the season. . . By the time you finish his book, you’ll marvel at how much [Alexander] managed to squeeze into 300 pages.”―Air Mail

“From the man who grew us The $64 Tomato, William Alexander is back in the garden…as well as in pizzerias in Naples (Italy), a ketchup factory, the local Pizza Hut, large-scale tomatoes farms in Naples (Florida), and the farmers markets where heirloom tomatoes are having their day in the sun, again. Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World is a fascinating and funny tell-all tale of how ten tomatoes are shaping our lives in unusual, unexpected, and (in some cases) very delicious directions.”―David Lebovitz, author of Drinking French and My Paris Kitchen

“William Alexander has written an entertaining, broad-ranging history of the tomato, in a conversational, humorous style that uses tomatoes to explore history — from the Aztecs to Italian cuisine and pizza — along with the introduction of fascinating characters, issues such as climate change and hydroponics, heirloom mania, and the search for flavor in a world of GMOs and factory farming.”―Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds and For God, Country and Coca-Cola

“William Alexander is a delightful guide on this whirlwind tour of the tomato’s influence on global cuisine and culture. His trademark blend of history, botany, memoir and travelogue make Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World a captivating–and appetizing–read for gardeners and cooks alike.”―Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of The Drunken Botanist

“[T]his witty firsthand narrative transcends its topic, niche, and season while tackling that nagging question we all want answered: Why do winter tomatoes taste so awful?”―AudioFile Magazine

“[E]ngaging and immersive.” ―Edible Inland Northwest