Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? Or could it really be both? Read on to see what history has to say about it!
This is always a fun bit of trivia, but while people might think they know the answer, they might not know technically why. It is all the more murky because in 1893 the supreme court ruled in the case of “NIX v. HEDDEN” tomatoes were to be considered vegetables. You can actually read the original court filings here for you history nuts: NIX v. HEDDEN, 149 U.S. 304 (1893).
So, why is a tomato a vegetable and not a fruit? The age-old question actually has an answer—it’s both! According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists. Botanically, a fruit is a ripened flower ovary and contains seeds. Tomatoes, plums, zucchinis, and melons are all edible fruits, but things like maple “helicopters” and floating dandelion puffs are fruits too. For some reason, people got hung up on tomatoes, but the “fruit or vegetable” question could also work for any vegetable with seeds.
Now, nutritionally, the term “fruit” is used to describe sweet and fleshy botanical fruits, and “vegetable” is used to indicate a wide variety of plant parts that are not so high in fructose. In many cultures, vegetables tend to be served as part of the main dish or side, whereas sweet fruits are typically snacks or desserts. Thus, roots, tubers, stems, flower buds, leaves, and certain botanical fruits, including green beans, pumpkins, and of course tomatoes, are all considered vegetables by nutritionists. There is no hard-and-fast rule that clearly designates a botanical fruit as a vegetable, but, given that tomatoes are generally not used in desserts and are closely related to other fruit-vegetables (e.g., eggplants and peppers), it is not too counterintuitive for tomatoes to be classified as vegetables.
Our general feeling is that no matter how you classify it, tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and we should all be eating more!
For other tomato-related content, check out:
Can Pizza Be a Health Food?
Reducing Cardiovascular Disease with Tomato Products
How Tomatoes Help Fight Prostate Cancer