Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jun 22, 2012 06:16 AM

Why only tomatoes?

In all our vegetable discussions someone inevitably brings up that technically a tomato is a fruit (botanically). Why dO we stop at tomato? Eggplant, peppers, beans, peas, squash, pumpkin, cucumbers and others are also fruits but nobody ever discusses the technicality of those "vegetables". Are we just ignorant of that fact or are tomatoes in some way special that leads us into to reminder caveat that they really aren't vegetables?

In my Spanish class we categorize vocabulary and I tell my students we are going to categorize them culinarily not botanically. Since this is a food site why not just agree that our definitions are culinary unless otherwise specified?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've always wondered the same thing as well! What about all the other fruits disguised as vegetables? I'm a Spanish teacher too and there is always some sabelotodo that has to say that a tomato is a fruit!

    1. Always thought it was a "fruit" if it had seeds inside?

      2 Replies
      1. re: kseiverd

        Botanically, yes. But many botanical fruits are vegetables in culinary terms. For some reason, people like to play botanist on the internet and point out that tomatoes are fruits, but they never seem to point out the same for all of the other vegetables that are botanically fruits (cucumbers, eggplant, squash...).

        I think paulj is on to in with the court case. The case was brought concerning vegetable tariffs applying to tomatoes. The court ruled that the tariff applied because tomatoes were legally vegetables based on common usage. If cucumbers or eggplant had been the plant in question, they would be the example help up most often.

        1. re: mpjmph

          The tomato vs other fruits/veggies issue was hashed out also on Top Chef - D.C. Episode 2.

          The refs paulj below refers to were also cited on that thread - e.g.:

      2. There was a court ruling of the issue many years ago. There was some regulation, import tariffs I believe, that applied to fruits but not vegetables (or v.v.), and resulting dispute over whether it applied to tomatoes or not. You can look up the details.

        The issue isn't whether tomatoes (and these other items) are botanically fruits, but what they are for the purposes of the produce trade and its regulation. Our concepts of fruit and vegetable developed before botany codified its definition.

        When I was a kid, my mom usually served raw sliced tomato with a sprinkling of sugar. That's an indication that it was being eaten as a fruit, at least some of the time.

        1. You're smart if you know a tomato is a fruit. You're wise if you know not to put it in a fruit salad.

          3 Replies
            1. re: Bada Bing

              Thanks, but I can't claim credit. Another stolen one-liner.

            2. re: ricepad

              not true! peaches, watermelon and tomato is one of my favorite August combinations.