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Is Tomato a Fruit or Vegetable?

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule Mar 22, 2020
Is tomato a fruit or vegetable? The answer to this question is not straight. Tomato can be both, a fruit or a vegetable, depending upon your perspective.
The confusion if tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, is as old as tomato itself. Although, science has already answered this question, common people still fumble when it comes to deciding, if tomato is a fruit or vegetable.
There can be various answers to this question depending upon the perspective you adopt. Here, we have tried to explain if tomato is a fruit or vegetable based on several perspectives.

Botanical Perspective

Botanical science defines fruits, as ripened ovaries of the flowering plants. Going by this definition, tomato is definitely a fruit.
Tomatoes, like berries have soft flesh and edible seeds, hence perfectly fit the definition of fruits. But then, this would also imply that eggplant, pumpkin, capsicum, cucumber etc. are fruits! The term 'vegetable' does not exist in botany. Thus, tomato is a fruit.
Seeds are the part of a plant that make a fruit a 'fruit' and vegetable a 'vegetable'. The term 'vegetable' does not exist in botany. Hence according to scientists, all the seed producing flowering plants produce fruits and not vegetables. Other vegetables such as carrots, radishes are roots in botanical terms.

Horticultural Perspective

True fruits are perennial and have a hard wood, as opposed to tomato, which is an annual plant and has a soft wood. Thus, horticulture classifies tomato as a vegetable. Tomato plant has a soft wood. Horticulturally, that makes it a vegetable.

Culinary Perspective

If you ask the same question to a cook, he'll tell you that tomato is a vegetable and not a fruit. Culinary science defines fruits as sweet, fleshy foods used in dessert recipes. Tomato does not fit into this definition and hence is a vegetable.
Moreover, they are always served as a part of the main course and not as a dessert, this distinguishes tomato from the fruits. Tomato isn't used in dessert recipes, hence it qualifies to be a vegetable.

Legal Perspective

In 1893, the United States Supreme Court gave its verdict, declaring tomato as a vegetable. During that time, fruits were not liable to import taxes. Thus, markets were flooded with cheap tomatoes from other countries.
This agitated the consortium of local cultivators, who filed a suit in the court. The court's verdict pacified the consortium and made tomato liable for taxes.

Government Perspective

Lot of confusion prevails, about tomato's status at the Government level. Tomato was awarded the status of 'state fruit' by the State of Tennessee in 2003, while the State of New Jersey is on the verge of declaring it as 'state vegetable'. State of Arkansas, declared the 'South Arkansas vine ripe pink tomato' as both the state fruit and vegetable.

Why Common People Think of Tomato as Vegetable and Not Fruit

Technically speaking, tomato may be a fruit, but most people still refer to it as a vegetable and not fruit. Tomato is never used in sweet recipes and always forms a part of a principal diet.
It can be eaten salted, which never implies to real fruits. And lastly, when you go to a grocery shop you'll never find tomato placed next to apples or bananas, they are always placed with other vegetables.
Although, tomato has been conferred different titles at different levels, for commoners, it doesn't really matter if it's a fruit or a vegetable. Of course, as long as they continue to be an inseparable ingredient of delicious tomato sauce, soup and other sumptuous recipes.