14 May Is tomato fruit or vegetable?
The red and plump tomatoes are part of most global cuisine. It is a familiar and very versatile fruit/vegetable. Everyone loves the juicy, slightly zesty tasting tomato which can be cooked and eaten raw as well. But what do we call it, is tomato fruit or vegetable? Let’s figure out.
The tomato is a flowering plant that belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. They are widely cultivated around the globe for its edible fruits. It requires relatively warm weather and much sunlight to grow. It is mostly grown in greenhouses in colder regions.
The tomato plant was initially grown as an ornamental plant. It adorned the indoors in France and northern Europe for a long time. It is a close relative of the poisonous belladonna and deadly nightshade plants, Therefore, it was long looked at with suspicion as a food. Things were made even worse by the reaction of the tomato’s acidic juice with pewter plates. This made it look even more toxic. The leaves and fruit that haven’t ripened contain tomatine. Tomatine can be toxic in large amounts. Thankfully, once ripe, the fruit doesn’t contain tomatine. (source)
Tomato- a fruit or a vegetable
The wild species of the tomato plant originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. Its name comes from an Aztec word ‘tomatl’. The tomato was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the early 16th century. They are the first Europeans to adopt it as a food. The Aztecs also believed that those who saw the ingestion of tomato seeds were showered with the power of divination. (source)
Tomatoes are an abundant source of nutrients from Vitamin C, Potassium and Folate. It also contains vitamin K and the phytochemical lycopene. Sporting a fine red shade colour when ripe, the tomato goes through shades of orange, yellow and green as it ripens. (source)
The tomato is commonly eaten raw as a vital part of salads, as part of curries, and often, pickled.
A large part of the world’s tomatoes is processed into products. They make bottled products like ketchup, puree, paste, canned tomatoes and tomato juice. “Sun-dried” tomatoes and dehydrated pulp are also much sought after.
But the question remains- is it a fruit or a vegetable? Let us see which category it fits into.
Is it considered a fruit?
We all know the difference between vegetables and fruits. Fruits are sweet and tempting and make a delicious snack. Scientifically speaking, fruits and vegetables are distinguished primarily based on the structure and function of the part of the plant considered.
Fruits are those entities formed after flowering of the plant. This means tomatoes, along with pumpkins, cucumbers, squashes, peppers and eggplants are fruits. They have seeds and are an integral part of the plant’s reproduction process. Some common examples of fruits are apples, mangoes, peaches and strawberries. They are typically sweet and easy to consume to assist the dispersal of seeds.(source)
When it comes to the culinary aspect, there is a whole another classification. The classification of fruits and vegetables here is comparable. This is unlike the botanical classification.
In cooking, the two are categorized based on their utilization and flavour profiles. (source) Since fruits generally have a soft and bite-able texture. They are usually on the sweet side. Fruits are thus used for preparing desserts, pastries, smoothies, jams or eaten raw as a snack.
So it sounds like tomato is a fruit, isn’t it? Let’s see if it can be a fruit or vegetable at the same time.
Is it a vegetable?
Vegetables, on the other hand, aren’t as exciting as fruits. They are mostly what constitutes healthy meals. Vegetables are mostly the roots, stems and leaves, along with other edible parts of the plant. Some common vegetables are spinach, beans, potatoes, carrots and lettuce. But tomatoes are used in cooking extensively from sauces to stir-fries. Thye also constitute the main ingredient in some Indian curries as well.
The Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of tomato goes,” the usually large, rounded, edible, pulpy berry of a herb (genus Solanum) of the nightshade family native to South America that is typically red but may be yellow, orange, green, or purplish in colour and is eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable”(source)
It interprets tomato as a vegetable when cooked. To twist things up, the low sugar content and vitamin profile make tomatoes vegetables in the eyes of nutritionists too. Which explains why tomato is named a vegetable on the USDA food guidelines for healthy eating.(source)
Do you think tomato is a fruit or vegetable, or both?
The debate on the identity of the tomato isn’t new. It has had such a profound impact that the case has even been dragged to the court. It all started in 1886, when an importer named John Nix, and his colleagues got their hands on a load of West Indian tomatoes. The then resident customs official of the Port of New York, Edward Hedden demanded that they pay ten per cent tax. This was according to the Tariff Act of 1883, which imposed an import duty on “foreign vegetables.” Well-versed in botany, Nix argued that the tomato is a fruit and therefore tax-free. The argument ended in court where Justice Horace Gray of the Supreme Court ruled it as a vegetable.
“Botanically speaking,” said Justice Gray, “tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people…all these vegetables…are usually served at dinner. They are consumed with, or after the soup, fish, or meat. Thus it constitutes a principal part of the diet, and not, like fruits, generally had as dessert.”(source)
It was not only the tomato that has been dragged to court. In 1886, Justice Joseph Bradley ruled beans as a vegetable in the Supreme Court in another case. At the same time, the court also decided that truffles, onions, and water chestnuts are vegetables. The rhubarb, which is a stalk, was surprisingly called a fruit, mainly because of the famous strawberry-rhubarb pie.
Even recently, in 2001, the European Union declared carrots & sweet potatoes as fruits along with tomatoes. (source)
Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? -We answer.
So to conclude, we can say that tomato is a fruit or a vegetable depending on how you use it. It is eaten raw as well as the topping of a rich pizza or in a spicy curry, as long as it is fresh and well grown.
Thankfully, tomatoes aren’t the only foods that have been caught in this crisis. It is also very common for plants that are botanically classified as fruits to be used as vegetables in cooking. Fruits like cucumber, squash, peppers, eggplant and okra are also considered vegetables usually. Didn’t know that, did you? (source)
Triangle Farms produces some of the finest vegetables in the country using the sustainable technology of hydroponics. Have you tried them?