Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The confusion about whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable arises from the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. Botanically speaking tomato is a fruit because it is developed from the ovary in the base of a flower and contains seeds. But so are bean pods, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Along with these fruits, we often eat the leaves (e.g. lettuce and spinach), flowers (e.g. broccoli and cauliflower), stems (e.g. celery and banana stem) and roots (e.g. carrots and potatoes). As far as cooking is concerned, many of these other parts of the plant are referred to as vegetables because they are used in cooking savory rather than sweet dishes. These are seen as vegetables mainly because they are usually being eaten as a main course instead of being eaten as a dessert.

The history of referring tomatoes as vegetables dates back to 1886 when importer John Nix landed a load of West Indian tomatoes at the port of New York where the customs official, Edward Hedden demanded payment of 10% tax in accordance with the Tariff Act of 1883, which levied an import duty on foreign vegetables. Nix objected on the grounds of botany that tomato was a fruit. This case eventually made its way to Supreme Court of the United States, where in 1893 Justice Horace Gray ruled in the favour of tomato to be classified under the customs regulations as a vegetable, based on the ways it is used.

Remarkably there are 7500 varieties of tomatoes grown across the world today. These are various classifications of tomatoes based on shape,

Remarkably there are 7500 varieties of tomatoes grown across the world today. These are various classifications of tomatoes based on shape, size and purpose.

  • Based on their use tomatoes can be classified as slicing and fresh eating; pickling, canning and sauce, paste and cooking.
  • Based on the duration and form of growth they are classified as determinate and indeterminate. If you will be canning, determinate tomatoes, which ripen all around the same time is useful. On the other hand, if you want tomatoes throughout the growing season indeterminate tomatoes is the option you should go for.
  • Based on their size and shape tomatoes are classified as cherry, heirloom, grape, pear, plum, beefsteak tomatoes and so on.
  • Based on colour and skin pattern they can be classified as big rainbow, Copia, gajo de melon, black krim, green zebra, old german, tigerella, Williams striped and so on.

Tomato nutrition facts

Tomatoes are considered to be one of the high antioxidant foods and also one of the best sources of the phytonutrient called lycopene. Lycopene is widely tied to enhanced immunity and cancer risk reduction. Several studies have proved that higher intake of lycopene can protect against lung, stomach and breast cancer. Tomatoes are also a source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Here is a table showing the nutrients that are present in one medium sized tomato:-

About the Author
Dr. Chef Soundar

Dr. Chef Soundar

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Dr.Chef Soundararajan P is a culinarian & mentor , founder of Culinary Vision, founder General Secretary of Indian Federation of Culinary Associations and Chairman of the Marketing committee of WorldChefs. He writes about Culinary Techniques and shares his profound knowledge here in his blog. [Read More....]

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