Tillie Lewis: The Tomato Queen
Comic Book gals with golden lariats and invisible airplanes had nothing on this TRUE heroine whose Super Power was feeding the nation and the world the ripest, freshest tomato grown in American soil.
The Tomato Queen survived the 1918-1919 Spanish flu Pandemic and created her global business success plan while recovering from her Brooklyn tenement sick bed. She did lose her little Mom & Pop family business to the flu.
Instead of crying about it, she decided to go bigger with her bother-in-law and his investor to create an Italian Import business she called Mosalina Products. The canned tomatoes became a huge focus for her idea “what do people really need.”
She began her studies of the Italian favorite, the San Marzano, in the 1920’s at Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens research facilities and determined the San Marzano would likely grow in a Mediterranean climate similar to that of Naples, Italy. Tillie believed the Central Valley of California might be just the place.
By 1934, the bright, brave, and beautiful New Yorker was growing tomatoes at her new company, FLOTILL, smack in the midst of the great depression, offering good jobs to men and women based upon good character and NOT race, faith, or gender.
Tillie Lewis was soon the largest packer of tomatoes in the country. The 5th largest canner of other products, but the ONLY cannery owned and operated by a woman.
Tomato sauce, paste, juice, pizza sauces, catsup, became healthier still when Tillie created the Tasti-Diet. Tillie also looked ahead to “What’s Next?” even teaching American’s how to save money and product during war time by turning thick rich tomato paste into juice and sauces to keep our country eating healthy no matter what.
American war contracts kept Tillie Lewis packing good food for our soldiers. After the war, she was asked to assist Israel’s Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon in starting tomato success in Israel. At President Lyndon Johnson’s request, Tillie Lewis was the 1st woman to serve as US Ambassador in the Global Hunger Summit. Tillie Lewis reminded the world, “Food will grow 365 days a year somewhere in the world. It is our job, as agriculturalists, to feed the globe.”
Time and again. Tillie Lewis reminded herself that she owed all of her success to a TOMATO.
The truth is, this real live Wonder Woman turned her life from Tenements to Tomato Queen by knowing everything is possible when we choose a positive path and never, ever give up. What better path than feeding our bodies and minds with great nutrition?