The question that appears to be on most peoples lips is whether or not a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Indeed, this is something that people get confused about as there is a tendency to think of a fruit as being something obvious such as a banana or an apple and somehow a tomato just does not fit into the ideas that we have in our minds. However, there is one way to resolve this issue and that is to spend time comparing a fruit and a vegetable so we can then come to a definitive conclusion.
It should also be noted that there is a need to examine different definitions to further help us in our discussions.
What is a Fruit?
When answering the question as to what constitutes a fruit then there is a rather precise definition that can be applied. Now, we will go into details as to whether or not a tomato is a fruit later on as the issue does get rather complex, but as of right now let us look at this definition of what a fruit actually is.
In the most simplest of terms, a fruit is described as growing from the flower of a plant and that is something that you can understand when you imagine the way that those different fruits grow. Because of this, the tomato does appear to be going along the lines of a fruit.
What is a Vegetable?
On the flip side, we also have to look at what we mean when talking about a vegetable because there is a different definition which is what you would expect in this instance.
A vegetable is generally referred to as being part of a plant that can be eaten that consists of the root, leaves or the stem. The general definition according to most people makes no reference to flowers and the way in which the ‘food’ is grown. Make sense? Well, it is a basic explanation but it is certainly one that is easy enough to follow.
When it Comes to a Tomato…
Here is the complex part, it appears to often be the case that the answer to this question is going to depend on whether or not you are a chef or a gardener as it seems that both have their very own ideas.
In order to try to answer this question, we need to look at different points of view and how they see the tomato. The entire thing is just going to get a little bit more complicated.
The Botanical Definition of a Fruit.
If we can now go back to another definition because it is important to look at what botanists say when it comes to offering an explanation as to what is mean by a fruit. You see, by looking at this particular explanation it does then start to become clear why people have a tendency to lean towards a tomato being a fruit so you are going to have to picture what we are about to describe to make life easier for yourself.
According to the world of botany, a fruit is ‘a seed bearing structure that that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant’. This is different to a vegetable as they refer to a vegetable as being every other part of a plant which means the roots, the stems and the leaves.
Now, if we look at this definition and take it as read that this is the clear difference between the two options, then you can really see how a tomato has to be a fruit according to the botanical world. After all, the tomato comes from the flower and at no point, and also no varieties do this, does it have anything to do with the structure of the plant. If you have no flowers appearing on your tomato plants then you are going to have no tomatoes it really is as simple as that.
For many people, the botanical definition is going to be the one that is the most important thing simply because it involves the rules that the natural world live by. It also makes sense as you have to think about the way in which fruit such as strawberries, apples, and oranges grow to see how there are similarities with the tomato.
At this stage, we have to say that the tomato is going to be a fruit if you believe the definition as set out by the world of botany.
The Culinary Definition.
However, we also need to look at the culinary definition as this is where it is believed that a tomato is actually a vegetable rather than it being a fruit. This is why there is so much confusion surrounding this issue as chefs appear to be firmly set on arguing that a tomato is a vegetable leading to the overlap that exists.
The reason for this is simply because chefs have a tendency to refer to any kind of fruit that is savoury rather than being sweet as a vegetable. That is why even eggplant is referred to as a vegetable even though in the strictest sense of the word it is actually a fruit because of the way I which it grows. However, you do not seem to have the same arguments existing over eggplant as you do with a tomato.
What we see with this is that the culinary world are rather exact in their belief that the tomato is a vegetable. The very idea of it being a fruit just goes against what they believe a fruit to be like. However, the way in which they argue that anything savoury is a vegetable does seem to forget that there are some varieties of tomatoes out there that are rather sweet to the taste.
At this point, we have to therefore conclude that chefs say it is a vegetable.
Our Habit Plays a Role.
There is one other point that is important to be discussed when trying to decide if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable and it is because of the way in which we will tend to eat it. There is a habit in that a vegetable is mainly cooked in the absolute vast majority of occasions and, of course, tomatoes form the basis for so many cooked dishes with that approach really outnumbering the raw and uncooked recipes.
On the other hand, we mainly eat fruit in its raw state and it is very rarely going to be cooked (even though there are various dishes) so for some people that in itself is an important difference between a fruit and a vegetable and that is why they then invest so much time and effort into referring to a tomato as a vegetable.
In this sense, you can kind of understand why people think that way even though if we are being true to our word it should still not make much of a difference to how we view the rather humble tomato. Furthermore, it is not exactly going to be the case that you will change how you use the tomato just because you perhaps thought it was a vegetable and are now siding with the idea it is a fruit or vice versa.
The Legal Definition.
So, let us finally try to just bring it down to one thing, the legal definition of a vegetable or a fruit. It is important to note that not everybody is going to even listen to this part as they are so set in their ways when it comes to what they believe to be correct with a tomato and its standing in the fruit or vegetable debate, but it does offer us some other evidence to take into consideration.
In this instance, we are talking about a ruling made by the Supreme Court which decided that a tomato was indeed a vegetable. It all came about after a family by the name of Nix tried to claim back fees that they had been forced into spending out in order to transport tomatoes. Back in the 19th century, there were taxes on vegetables that had been imported and yet fruit was exempt. They then went to court in order to have it classified as a fruit only for the court to rule against them.
But what is the legal standpoint on this? Well, it seems from the records that the thought process that was behind this point of view was simply because so many people were used to referring to it as a vegetable so then changing it to a fruit would just be too confusing. People said it was a vegetable, so that was good enough for the court.
To them, science is unable to go ahead and beat what people already think and the court even accepted that the botanical explanation means it is a fruit. However, they still ruled against the family so they were unable to claim back all of the tax that they were looking for and you cannot help but think that it was linked more to the fact that it was to do with money rather than trying to work out if it is a fruit or a vegetable.
If we just go by this, then a tomato would be classed as a vegetable.
So, there is the answer for you and the answer is that a tomato is indeed a fruit. Yes, there has been a considerable amount of debate over this point for decades and we are sure that this is something that will continue to rumble on for quite some time as some people just appear to be incapable of understanding that a tomato is a fruit in the same way as a pepper is a fruit as well.
You can see where there is some confusion and there is no doubt that the legal definition and the culinary definitions do argue that a tomato is a vegetable. At the end of the day, it depends on which definition it is that you would like to go ahead and use because does it actually matter?
However, the just of it all is that it is more about the growing and the flavor of the tomato rather than what it is called and as long as you focus on improving your ability in this area then who cares what it actually is in the grand scheme of things?