Tomato – Fruit or Vegetable?

Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? That is a question that has been around since the discovery of the tomato. There are many different views and opinions on whether a tomato is classified as a fruit or as a vegetable. Generally when we think of fruit, we think of a sweet apple or peach, while a vegetable is more savory.

In truth, a tomato is botanically a fruit. According to thefreedictionary.com a fruit is:

The ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant, together with accessory parts, containing the seeds and occurring in a wide variety of forms.

In other words, a fruit is any fleshy material that covers a seed or seeds. Tomatoes definitely fit into this category, as does squash, cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers. Horticulturally, the tomato is a vegetable plant. The plant is an annual and non-woody. Most fruits, from a horticulture perspective, are grown on a woody plant (apples, cherries, raspberries, oranges) with the exception of strawberries.

In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether a tomato was a fruit or vegetable:

Nix vs. Heeden – Under the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, which required a tax to be paid on imported vegetables, but not fruit. The case was filed as an action by John Nix, John W. Nix, George W. Nix, and Frank W. Nix against Edward L. Hedden, Collector of the Port of New York, to recover back duties paid under protest. Botanically a tomato is a fruit. The court, however, unanimously ruled in favor of the defendant, that the Tariff Act used the ordinary meaning of the words “fruit” and “vegetable” -where a tomato is classified as a vegetable -not the technical botanical meaning.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to classify the tomato as a vegetable, and not the technical botanical classification. In short, the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to call the tomato a vegetable so that they could continue to charge a tax for them.

What do you think…is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

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3 Comments on Tomato – Fruit or Vegetable?

  1. Melons aren’t a woody plant, either, but they’re fruit, right?

  2. Hey! Just wanted to give kudos on the great posts. Keep them coming! 🙂

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