Tomato: Fruit or Veggie?

Have you ever wondered if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable?

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The Great Mater Debate

We’ve all heard it by now. That know-it-all friend who claims that a tomato is actually a fruit. They usually never bother to back up this claim with any sort of fact, leaving everyone to wonder: Is a tomato actually a fruit or a vegetable?

To answer that question we need to look into the botanical definition of fruits and vegetables. Botany, which is the scientific study of plants, declares that a fruit is the seed-bearing structure that develops from a flowering plant. Vegetables, on the other hand, aren’t as strictly defined, though modern botanists accept all other parts of a plant to be considered vegetables. Thus, a tomato is a fruit as it contains seeds. Similarly, other thought-to-be fruits such as peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers are also, botanically speaking, fruits.

Case closed, right? Wrong. You will likely be surprised to hear this tomato debate extends far beyond backyard picnics and school lunch tables. In 1893 the Nix family of New York brought suit against Edward L. Hedden, a tariff collector at the New York Port, in order to recover fees for transporting tomatoes. According to the Tariff Act of 1883, vegetables had a much higher import tax than did fruit. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that tomatoes be classified as vegetables, despite being botanically considered fruit.

So there you have it. Tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables. Next time someone claims that a tomato is actually a fruit, simply refer to Nix v. Hedden and politely tell them they are wrong!


Try it out!