Food

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits

Most of us like to think that we can tell the difference between a fruit and a vegetable. But when it comes to certain food items like tomatoes, the line between them may not be as clear as you think. In fact, even local grocers might mistakenly label them. So here we will answer the age-old question: is tomato a fruit? And uncover other fruits and vegetables that may be mislabeled.

Is tomato a fruit?

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Is Tomato a Fruit?

The question of whether tomatoes are a fruit is more controversial than you might think. So much so, that it was even the subject of a US lawsuit in 1893. As a result of this ruling, tomatoes are considered vegetables under US law. But in fact, it all depends on who you ask, for example, a botanist will most likely give you a different answer to a chef.

Botanical classification of tomatoes

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Tomato seeds

From a botanist’s point of view, a tomato is a fruit. This is because, from a scientific point of view, the structure, function and composition of a fruit or vegetable determine what it is. Botanically speaking, a fruit is a fleshy product that grows from the flower of a plant that contains at least one seed. Since the tomato meets this definition, it is classified as a fruit. To be more precise, it is a kind of berry. Meanwhile, a vegetable is defined as any other part of a plant — for example, the roots, stem, and leaves.

Culinary classification of tomatoes

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Culinary Classification of a Tomato

In the culinary world, the definition of a fruit or a vegetable is changing. After all, those who work in a kitchen environment are less interested in the function of a fruit or vegetable than their flavor profile. From a culinary perspective, fruit criteria relate more to its smooth texture, sweet or tangy taste, and suitability for desserts, jams, and pastries. Culinary workers, meanwhile, define vegetables by their pleasant, sometimes bitter taste, and their suitability for savory dishes.

Of course, tomatoes can also be enjoyed raw and are considered very sweet. But since people usually use tomatoes in savory dishes, they are often considered a vegetable, hence the 1893 ruling. So, if you hear someone call tomatoes a vegetable, they won’t necessarily be wrong. However, this does not change the fact that the tomato is a fruit from a scientific point of view.

Five other fruits you may have mistaken for a vegetable

Tomatoes aren’t the only foodstuffs experiencing an identity crisis. Many other fruits and vegetables are often confused with or used in this way in cooking.

Here are five other fruits you may have mistaken for vegetables.

1 pepper

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Bell pepper with seeds

Sweet peppers are very sweet and are often eaten raw. But since people usually use it in savory dishes, many people think of it as a vegetable. But because sweet peppers bear seeds, they are actually a fruit.

2 cucumbers

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Cucumber plant

Cucumbers are interesting from a culinary point of view because people usually eat them raw, but they are not quite sweet. But regardless, since its function is to disperse seeds, it’s technically a fruit.

3 eggplant

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Eggplant

When you think of berries, you might imagine strawberries and blueberries. But even though there is the word “berries” in their name, none of these fruits are not berries at all. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more botanically accurate example of a berry, you’d better look at a banana, a tomato, or even an eggplant. Yes, eggplant is not only a fruit and not a vegetable, it is a berry.

4 avocados

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Avocado tree

Avocados are known for their many health benefits and as a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (also known as the “good” fats). The taste of avocado may not quite bring the word “fruity” to mind. But as anyone who has ever prepared an avocado knows, it contains one large seed, which makes it a fruit.

5 green beans

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Green Beans

Green beans are a staple vegetable in any family gathering around the world. Only green beans are not a vegetable at all. Instead, because green beans are a pod filled with seeds, they are a type of fruit according to science.

Other interesting facts about fruits and vegetables

Now you know the answer to the question: is a tomato a fruit? And you know how to spot other fruits that are often confused with vegetables. But here are some other interesting facts regarding fruit and vegetable classifications.

1 Use rhubarb like fruits and vegetables

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Rhubarbs Plantation

As we’ve seen, many fruits and vegetables are often confused because of their appearance, texture, and taste. But sometimes this misidentification happens the other way around, especially when it comes to rhubarb.

You can certainly describe the taste of rhubarb as fruity, and most people use it in the same way they would fruit. For example, rhubarb is a common ingredient in many dessert dishes and is often used to make jams. But while a 1947 court case ruled that rhubarb is a fruit, from a botanical point of view it is a perennial vegetable.

2 Nuts are also a kind of fruit

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Nuts Are Also a Type of Fruit

You probably won’t be mistaking a nut for a vegetable anytime soon. But you also might not have realized that nuts are a type of fruit. However, the confusion regarding the definition of a nut only begins there.

From a botanical point of view, nuts are a special kind of dry fruit with one seed, a hard shell, and a protective shell. However, some nutrients that we often think of as nuts, such as peanuts and almonds, do not fit this definition. In fact, the former is technically a type of legume. And yes, legumes count as fruits, too.

3 Many US states have fruits as their state vegetables

Is tomato a fruit? …and five other potentially offensive fruits
Watermelon

It’s not just grocers who tend to mislabel their fruits and vegetables. Entire countries did the same. For example, in Oklahoma, the state vegetable is watermelon. Despite mentioning that tomatoes are, in fact, technically a fruit, the states of New Jersey and Arkansas consider the tomato variety a state vegetable. Then, as if to add to the confusion, the tomato is also the state fruit of Ohio.

Smith

Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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