Tomato Vegetable or Fruit?

To answer the question “Tomato, Vegetable or Fruit?” takes a little explaining.  The issue has been Tomato Vegetable or Fruithotly debated for centuries and was actually taken to the United States Supreme Court in 1893 (Nix v Hedden).  Of course this was not done to settle some local pub trivia but to move the Tomato from the tax-free fruit classification to the taxed vegetable classification.  At the time there were no import taxes on fruit but it was argued that the Tomato was used as a vegetable and should be taxed as one.  As would be expected the court ruled that the Tomato should be taxed as a vegetable and therefore, should be classified as such.

In order to fully understand the question we must first understand botanically what defines a fruit and what defines a vegetable.  Essentially, a fruit must have come from the ovary of the flower and contain seeds.   A vegetable on the other hand is simply an edible part of the plant.  If you think about your common vegetables they are indeed all just functional parts of the plant; lettuce is the leaves, carrots and potatoes are the root, celery is the stem and so on.  Our tomato does contain seeds and so is classified as a fruit.  Don’t be fooled by your seedless Tomatoes which have had the seeds bread out, these are still a fruit in the same way your seedless watermelon is still a fruit.  It’s not the only item on your grocery list that may surprise you, cucumbers, Beans, Pumpkin, and some nuts are all fruits as well.   The issue of course comes from the way we use these fruits.  Typically we expect our fruit to be a sweet item, most likely to end up as an ingredient in desserts.  Tomato on the other hand ends up being used by cooks as a vegetable.

 So how you answer the question ‘Tomato, Vegetable or Fruit?’ will probably depend on how you want to classify it and even on where you live.  If you live in the US you could say it is legally a fruit but scientifically a vegetable.  Given that the Supreme Court's decision was driven by the simple desire to increase taxes and given it is only a US ruling, I would suggest the botanical definition should be used.  Tomato is a fruit.

Here is an interesting discussion point next time you host a dinner.  Why not make a salad with cucumber and tomato then try and explain to your guests why it is actually a fruit salad.