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Why Soviet Russia named a tomato after an American celebrity

In 1990, Marina Danilenko founded a seed business with her mother. As the owner of the first private seed company in Moscow, she purchased seeds from a network of farms and eventually sold approximately 500,000 packets through the mail to Russian gardeners.

One of her specialties was tomatoes, as her mother was a tomato collector. These days, Russia is the 12th largest tomato producer in the world. While that’s fairly far down the list, tomatoes are extremely popular in Russia, and are grown in almost 90 percent of home gardens. They’re a vital ingredient in soups, stews, and sauces, and pickled tomatoes are eaten throughout the year.

Many Russian tomatoes have evocative names. There’s the Mother Russia and the Black Sea Man. But perhaps the most unusual of all is the Paul Robeson tomato. Named after the African-American singer, actor, and activist, his namesake tomato has become a cult favorite in American gardens.

Read more at Atlas Obscura (Debra Freeman)

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