A “Today I Learned” post at reddit tells us about tomato pincushions and the purpose of the attached strawberry. Over a thousand comments fall into three camps: 1. I’ve never heard of a tomato pincushion, b. I’ve seen my grandma use one but I didn’t know what the strawberry was for, and 3. doesn’t everyone know this? I still have the tomato pincushion I used in high school (in the 1970s), although the strawberry detached long ago. Wikipedia says,
One popular design—a tomato with a strawberry attached—was most likely introduced during the Victorian Era. According to folklore, placing a tomato on the mantel of a new house guaranteed prosperity and repelled evil spirits. If tomatoes were out of season, families improvised by using a round ball of red fabric filled with sand or sawdust. The good-luck symbol also served a practical purpose—a place to store pins. Typically, the tomato is filled with wool roving to prevent rust, and the strawberry is filled with an abrasive to clean and sharpen the pins.
You really don’t need the strawberry anymore, as pins are now plated, and sharpening them will ruin the plating. Also, pins are quite cheap these days, so you can throw one away (carefully) if it becomes dull. Please take a minute and let us know if any of this information is new to you.
(Image credit: Dvortygirl)