Monday, July 19, 2010

Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?

I went grocery shopping yesterday and got some tomatoes. (The Sweet 100s are getting ripe here, but the Early Girls and the Romas are still green.) And, after the storm and having no electricity for 12 hours, I wasn’t willing to fight the crowds at the Farmers Market.

The check out guy and the young man bagging the groceries began a lively conversation about a tomato being a fruit. The check out guy asked, “Why is this (a potato) a vegetable, and this (a tomato) a fruit?” The bagger responded, “A tomato is a fruit because it has seeds.” I mentioned that the tomato and potato are both in the same family – adding to their confusion. Then, the man behind me in line said, “Peppers have seeds, and they’re vegetables.” “Same thing with cucumbers,” I added.

Turns out, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the confusion arises because botanists/scientists classify it as a fruit and cooks classify it as a vegetable. Here’s part of their definition: “Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless).” Think raspberries and blueberries. Cooks consider the tomato a vegetable because it is savory rather than sweet.

Click this link for the full definition. And, the next time you're in the grocery store or at the Farmers Market buying tomatoes and a discussion breaks out about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, you'll be able to say, "Depends on who you're talking to!"

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