The tomato is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, as are its close cousins tobacco, chili peppers, potato, and eggplant. The tomato is native to Central, South, and southern North America from Mexico to Peru.
The word tomato derives from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum, means wolf-peach. Maya and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking, and it was being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas, by the 16th century. It is thought that the Pueblo people believed those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated and was encouraged in Central America.