Tomatoes are one the summer season’s most versatile produce offerings. They’re usually grouped alongside vegetables in the culinary uses, but you may have also heard them referred to as fruits.
This piece explores whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables and why they’re sometimes mistaken for one or the other.
Difference between a Fruit and a Vegetable
Nutritionally, fruits and vegetables has a lot of attention for being great sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Although they have a lot in common, fruits and vegetables also have some distinct differences.
However, these differences differ dramatically depending on whether you’re talking to a farmer or a chef.
Botanical classification of fruits and vegetables is primarily based on the structure and function of the part of the plant in question.
Fruits are produced from flowers, have seeds and assist with the plant’s reproduction process. Few well-known fruits include peaches, apples, blueberries and raspberries.
On the other hand, vegetables are the roots, leaves, stems, or other auxiliary parts of the plant. Some common vegetables may include lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets and celery.
When it comes to cooking, the classification system for fruits and vegetables differs significantly compared to how they’re classified botanically.
In culinary purpose, fruits and vegetables are used and applied based primarily on their flavor profiles.
Generally, fruits have a soft texture and seem to err on the sweet side. It may also be somehow tart or tangy. It’s best used for desserts, smoothies, pastries, and jams or eaten by itself as a snack.
Conversely, a vegetable often has a blander and possibly bitter flavor. It normally has a stronger texture than fruit and, though some are eaten raw, may require cooking. They’re best used for savory dishes like stir-fries, salads, stews, and casseroles.
Whether a food is a fruit or vegetable depends on culinary or botanical purpose. Botanical classification depends on the structure and function of the plant, while culinary purpose is based on flavor and recipe application.
Botanically, Tomatoes Are Fruits buts are classified as fruits according to science,.
All fruits have a single seed or many seeds inside and grow from the flower of a plant.
Like other true fruits, tomatoes form from small yellow flowers on the vine and naturally contain a multitude of seeds. These seeds can later be harvested and used to produce more tomato plants.
Interestingly, some modern types of tomato plants have been intentionally planted to stop producing seeds. Even when this is the case, a tomato is still classified as fruit of the plant in botanical terms.
Tomatoes are botanically fruits because they gotten from a flower and contain seeds.
They’re normally classified as a Vegetable
Much of the confusion about whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable is as result of common culinary applications for tomatoes.
Cooking is as much an art as it is a science, which seems to give way to more flexibility for how different foods are classified.
In cooking, tomatoes are often used alone or together with other true vegetables in savory dishes. As a result, they’ve thought to be a vegetable, even though they’re technically a fruit by scientific standards.
Tomatoes aren’t the only foods that undergo this kind of identity crisis. In fact, it’s very common for plants botanically classified as fruits to be used as vegetables in culinary purposes.
Other fruits that are usually considered vegetables may include:
Though much less common, sometimes vegetables are used more like fruits in some culinary scenarios, too.
Rhubarb, for instance, is often included in sweet dessert-style recipes even though it’s a vegetable. This is also exemplified in other dishes sweet carrot cake or sweet potato pie.
Tomatoes are often used in savory purposes, which is why they’ve taken the reputation of being a vegetable. Some other fruits that are used as vegetables may include pea pods, squash, and cucumber.
The Bottom Line
Tomatoes are botanically referred as fruits because they form from a flower and have seeds.
Still, they’re mostly used as a vegetable in cooking. In fact, the US Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that the tomato should be classified as a vegetable on the basis of its culinary uses.
It’s common for culinary practices to blur the lines of scientific definitions of what makes up a fruit or a vegetable. Many plants that are thought to be vegetables are actually fruits.
For all intents and purposes, tomatoes are both fruit and vegetable. If you’re talking to a farmer or gardener, they’re fruits. If you’re talking to a chef, they’re a vegetable.
Regardless, they’re very delicious and nutritious addition to our diet.