To scare off predators.
Or, more likely, just randomness, and then selection. Having spent a small chunk of the summer eating yellow tomatoes, I am deciding this is more likely to be the case.
It’s incredible how much of ‘reality’ is controlled by the mass agreement of people. The consensus is that tomatoes are red, so since tomatoes have been a big thing, we tend to cultivate and use the red tomatoes. Market forces dictate that any other colour is only a gimmick. Red is the norm, so that’s the expectation, so that’s the mass produced fruit.
It’s probably because it means you can get a complementary colour into our usually green salads. If there was ever a choice. It may well have just been the first tomatoes that were found, and so people were more wary of the next ones they saw that were similar but different colours.
Which reminds me of one of those things I’m always pondering. Who were the people who went around tasting every random bulbous or leafy structure in the forest to find out if it was enjoyable or poisonous? How many died so that we ended up with a varied diet? What instinct (or lack thereof) made it suddenly cool to start plucking things off random bushes and seeing if eating it made you sick for twelve hours or not? Is it only self control that stops us doing the same? When did we lose our rugged empiricism?
I’m always curious about that. The person who first scraped the fermentingr barrel to see if marmite tasted good (praise be that it was someone who liked it). The person who decided the yeast infected flour lump should be popped in the oven for just the right amount of time. The person who decided the thing coming out of the chicken’s bum might be tasty (and I feel desperate sympathy for the person who tried the other thing coming out of the chicken’s bum, just in case).
Were these people using logic and experimenting down a precise avenue (those eggs sometimes turn into chickens, so maybe they are tasty in the same way that chickens are), or were they just randomly flailing out desperately in the direction of anything to eat? Was whole human smorgasbord essentially discovered by orally fixated weirdos with a lack of self preservation.
I don’t remember the last time I did an aside that had so many questions in it.
The point is though, that I don’t know whether tomatoes were always as red as they are now. But it’s a norm now, so we maintain it as so. This is the impact of artificial selection on natural selection. Random shifts and bounces lead to a certain point, and then get frozen in time, and pointed towards goal.
Humanity has a tendency towards teleology that disappoints the joyous exploration of the more immense stochastic systems of evolution.
The agreed consensus for ‘better’ creates a blander future.
Making decisions can be impractical.
Illustration by Helen