Tomatoes, along with red peppers, are members of the Nightshade Family, and are native American plants. The English word tomato is derived from the Spanish word tomate, which comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl. Nahuatl is the language of the ancient Aztecs, who controlled central Mexico upon the arrival of the Spanish. Montezuma spoke Nahuatl.
Confusingly, in central Mexico the Spanish word tomate refers to what we in English call the husk-tomato, ground-cherry, or tomatillo, and which is known in Latin as Physalis ixocarpa. The item we Northerners call tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum,is called jitomate in central Mexico. In other parts of Mexico red tomatoes are referred to as tomates.
Often the husk-tomato's husk is removed and then the small, green fruit inside the husk is sold as tomate verde, or "green tomato." Tomate verde is used in making salsa verde, or green hot-sauce, while jitomate makes salsa roja, or red hot-sauce.
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