The tomato is a typically red fruit that originated in South America and are part of the nightshade family. Tomatoes are grown in many parts of the world and were introduced into these areas during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. There are many varieties of tomatoes and the colors vary depending on the type. Tomatoes are a main part of many dishes and can be eaten both raw and cooked. Whilst biologically tomatoes are in fact fruit, much debate has occurred on the subject and it is now also commonly accepted to classify a tomato as a vegetable for all practical purposes.
Why are tomatoes a fruit?
There are several reasons that tomatoes are classified as a fruit. The primary reason is because a tomato has seeds. Other edible plant matter such as potato, leek and cabbage are vegetables because they do not contain seeds. The seeds within the tomato are the mechanism that a tomato plant uses to procreate. Secondly, tomatoes are considered to be fruit due to the fact that they appear on the tomato vine or plant after it has flowered.
The tomato as a vegetable
In culinary terms a tomato is classified as a vegetable mainly due to the fact that it is not sweet like other more typical fruits. Any fruit that is not sweet is considered to be a vegetable when cooking.
Interestingly enough this debate has reached the legal arena with a ruling by the U.S Supreme Court on the matter. When a tariff was put into place on vegetables and not fruits it became of legal importance to define which category a tomato falls into. On May 10, 1893 in the case of Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304) the tomato was legally ruled a vegetable.