Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?

mini tomatoes on vine
Mini Tomato by Toru Wantanabe (2010) CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Well, it depends on who you ask.

If you ask a botanist, a tomato is a fruit because it develops from the ovary of the flower and contains seeds of the plant.

If you ask a court, they might decide otherwise.
In 1893, the Supreme Court declared tomatoes to be vegetables. In Nix v. Hedden, a fruit importer challenged the Port of New York’s classification of tomatoes as vegetables, which unlike fruits, were subject to a 10% excise tax.

The court wrote,

“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert. … As an article of food on our tables, whether baked or boiled, or forming the basis of soup, they are used as a vegetable, as well when ripe as when green. This is the principal use to which they are put. Beyond the common knowledge which we have on this subject, very little evidence is necessary, or can be produced.”

h/t to Nikki for this fun fact!


One thought on “Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s