Why the tomato? According to folklore, placing a tomato on the mantle of a new home 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. These days, a strawberry-shaped emery often comes attached to the tomato. It is filled with silica, which cleans and sharpens pins and needles.