Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy

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Journal Article

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Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies





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This research brief explores the controversial history of the cherry tomato and analyzes its role in the construction of Israel's national identity. Since 2003, mentions of Israel having “invented” the cherry tomato have appeared in both Israeli and international media. However, such claims have sparked outrage on various blogs and websites, and questions have been raised about the veracity of Israel's claims—as well as about the true origin of the cherry tomato. I explore the history of the cherry tomato, tracing mentions of it from the Renaissance period to modern times. In addition, I clarify the assertions of Israeli scientists credited with the development of the cherry tomato—that their research transformed the cherry tomato into a commodity in the 1980s. Finally, I discuss the cherry tomato claim in light of the Israeli government's hasbara (Hebrew for “explanation”) efforts, which attempt to counter negative images of Israel in the international press. While much previous scholarship on food and nationalism has focused on the relationship between the cultivation, preparation, or consumption of a food and the construction of a national identity, the present work focuses on the relationship between the food's invention narrative and national identity. By transforming the cherry tomato into an embodiment of technological innovation, I argue that hasbara separates the cherry tomato from its essence as a food and co-opts it into a symbol of modernity and progress.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Published as Seeding Controversy: Did Israel Invent the Cherry Tomato? Anna Wexler. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, Vol. 16 No. 2, Summer 2016; (pp. 1-11) DOI: 10.1525/gfc.2016.16.2.1. © 2016 by [the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association]. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.


tomato, cherry tomato, Israel, nationalism, national cuisine, culinary history



Date Posted: 12 November 2019

This document has been peer reviewed.