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Ever Wondered About... Tomato soup?

Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2005

The history and science of tomato soup

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Tomatoes History

In medieval times, peasants relied on thin soup from a stock pot which was endlessly topped up. The broth was a by-product of cooking meat, and was served over thick pieces of bread known as ‘soppes’, and eaten without a spoon — hence the word, soup.

The tomato was introduced to Europe in the 16th century, from South America and Mexico. Because they belong to the same plant family as the Deadly Nightshade, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous until as recently as the 19th century.

In 1897, Joseph Campbell came up with the idea of condensed tomato soup — by reducing water in the tin, storage and shipping costs were reduced. Campbell’s soup packaging later became iconic when Andy Warhol used the image in more than 100 pop-art works.


Not only do they taste great, but tomatoes are also good for you. One medium sized tomato contains 35 per cent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 15 per cent of vitamin A. It has more than 90 per cent water and contains only 35 calories. And if that’s not enough, tomatoes are also naturally sodium-free, cholesterol-free and high in fibre — so get eating.

Tomatoes get their red colour from a natural pigment called Lycopene, an important antioxidant which is thought to help protect against heart disease. Antioxidants also neutralise free radicals that cause cell damage, so they are meant to help protect you from some cancers. And surprisingly, processed products like tinned soup contain more Lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

Don’t like your greens? Well, think about getting out the tin opener instead. The latest advice from the British Dietetic Association says canned soup or baked beans can now count towards the ‘five portions a day’ of fruit and vegetables that scientists recommend for good health.


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