Fruit or Vegetable?


Is the Tomato a Fruit or Vegetable?
Botanically, this is...
A Berry! (A type of fruit)
Culinarily, this is...
Legally, this is...

Ah, tomatoes. This is the most asked-about plant by a large margin. It seems everyone is confused about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.

Intuitively, you would think that it is a vegetable. It’s not that sweet. It doesn’t grow on a tree. You put it in a regular salad, not a fruit salad. Doesn’t that make it a vegetable? Yes, it does.

“But wait,” you say, “I’ve heard that it’s technically a fruit.” This is also true. Botanically a tomato is the fruit of the plant. A tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable, at least in some sense of the words. Technically, it’s a berry even.

However, it is a berry only by virtue of the obscure botanical definition of “berry,” meaning it came from an ovary, is fleshy, and doesn’t split open to spread its seeds. This has no relevance for 99% of people. The botanical definition does not have any influence in the world of food. Unless you are a scientist studying plants, the botanical definitions of “fruit” and berry” are useless for you. You are eating tomatoes, not growing them. A tomato is a vegetable.

If you call tomatoes fruits just because they are the seed-bearing part of the tomato plant, there are many other vegetables you would have to miscategorize under such logic. Cucumbers, olives, pumpkins, corn, and many more vegetables all comprise the fruit of plants. But to call such things fruits would make the word “fruit” lose a large part of its meaning. Fruit has a culinary meaning too, like “vegetable” is a culinary term. Mixing botanical and culinary terms does not make sense. It just confuses people, which is the opposite of what language is supposed to do.

How can something be both a fruit and a vegetable?