- The Plate
Published February 9, 2015
• 10 min read
Everybody knows the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, right? Fruits are tempting and scrumptious. Adam and Eve, unable to resist one, were booted from the blissful Garden of Eden; a fruit kicked off the Trojan War; and a fruit so seduced kidnapped Persephone in the Underworld that she simply couldn’t help taking a bite, thus landing the rest of us forevermore with the chilly season of winter. Vegetables don’t pack this kind of punch. Vegetables, traditionally, are the stuff kids push around on their plates and hide under their mashed potatoes.
So what’s the real difference between fruits and vegetables? Which is which?
To a botanist, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. This means that tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn kernels, and bean and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, pears, peaches, apricots, melons and mangos. A vegetable, botanically, is any edible part of a plant that doesn’t happen to be a fruit, as in leaves (spinach, lettuce, cabbage), roots (carrots, beets, turnips), stems (asparagus), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (onions), and flowers (cauliflower and broccoli).
Politically and culinarily, however, it’s a whole different ball game.
The Supreme Court Weighs In
The classical vegetable/fruit story is the tetchy tale of the tomato. In 1886, importer John Nix and colleagues landed a load of West Indian tomatoes at the Port of New York where the resident customs official—one Edward Hedden—demanded payment of a ten percent tax in accordance with the Tariff Act of 1883, which levied an import duty on “foreign vegetables.” Nix, who knew his botany, objected, on the grounds that the tomato –a fruit — should be tax-exempt. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where, in 1893, Justice Horace Gray ruled in favor of vegetable.
“Botanically speaking,” said Justice Gray, “tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people…all these vegetables…are usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.”
This was neither the first nor the last time that the Supreme Court was forced to struggle with botanical definitions of food. In 1886, Justice Joseph Bradley in Robertson v. Salomon ruled that beans were vegetables. (The lawyer for the protesting importer, arguing that beans were seeds, pointed to garden catalogs; the defense countered with a dinner recipe for baked beans.) “The Supreme Court has just decided that beans are vegetables,” commented a gleeful Iowa newspaper. “This is rough on Boston. That cultured city can no longer push them on to a suffering world as fruit.”
Subsequent court decisions found truffles, onions, and water chestnuts also to be vegetables, but ruled that rhubarb (a leaf petiole or stalk, like celery) was a fruit, presumably from its popularity in strawberry-rhubarb pie. In 2001, the European Union declared carrots, sweet potatoes, and the now thoroughly confused tomatoes all to be fruits, at least for the purpose of making jam.
Oklahoma’s State Vegetable: The Watermelon
State legislatures have muddied the fruit/vegetable waters still more. The custom of creating state symbols dates to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 (a.k.a. the Chicago World’s Fair), where some 27 million visitors viewed 65,000 exhibits, among them the world’s largest conveyor belt, a U.S. map made of pickles, Bach’s clavichord, a herd of ostriches, and a 22,000-pound Canadian cheese. Also featured at the Fair was the National Garland of Flowers, for which each state was asked to select a representative flower.
State flowers were soon followed by a host of other official state symbols, among them birds, trees, animals, insects, reptiles, fossils, minerals, gemstones, songs, and folk dances. Utah and Delaware now have official state stars. Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina have official state boats. Texas has designated the cowboy boot its Official State Footwear. In the food category, we have official state fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, herbs, beverages, muffins, cookies, and pies.
Some state fruit and vegetable decisions have been straightforward. Six states, for example, chose the apple as their symbolic fruit, and three opted for the strawberry. Two—Georgia and South Carolina—chose the peach; Alabama—unable to make up its mind—picked the blackberry as state fruit and the peach as the state tree fruit.
Tennessee and Ohio went with botany and chose the tomato as their state fruit; Arkansas, hedging its bets, decreed the tomato to be both the state’s official fruit and official vegetable. Louisiana, on the other hand, appointed the sweet potato state vegetable, but named the tomato the state’s official “vegetable plant.” (Louisiana’s state fruit is the strawberry; they’ve also got a state doughnut, a state jelly, and a state meat pie.)
Oddest of all, perhaps, is Oklahoma, whose state vegetable, as of 2006, is the watermelon. The Oklahoma watermelon bill was sponsored by senator Don Barrington, Republican, from the watermelon-growing district of Rush Springs, and former winner of a hometown watermelon-seed-spitting contest. Barrington’s argument was that the watermelon was a vegetable by virtue of its genetic relationship to the obviously vegetable (that is, not eaten as dessert) cucumber and gourd; and he got some back-up from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which lists melons under “Vegetables.” The deciding factor, on the other hand, may have been the fact that Oklahoma already had a state fruit: the strawberry.
Fruit’s Place in History
Our word fruit comes to us from the Latin fructus or frui, meaning to enjoy; vegetable, a more stolid, commonsensical kind of word, comes from vegetabilis, which means growing (as in plants). Much of the enjoyable appeal of fruits lies in their irresistible sweetness: most temperate-zone fruits contain about 10 to 15 percent sugar by weight, and tropical fruits, by and large, are even sweeter. A juicy apple or orange, contains about 23 grams of sugar; a banana, 17 grams; a peach, 15; and a ripe fig, 10.
Overall deliciousness explains why fruit tends to lead us into temptation. If thieves sneak into your garden, they’re more likely to pinch the peaches than the peas. In early America, cautionary tales of moral instruction sternly warned that stealing fruit was the sort of gateway sin that led children straight to a life of crime. In Victorian England, filching fruit could get you transported or hanged. Even so, it’s a sin with a long persistent history. Even Saint Augustine, in his pre-sainthood days, admitted to having stolen pears.
No one, however, puts a better spin on stealing fruit than Mark Twain. Twain (along with his most famous hero, Huckleberry Finn) was a shameless stealer of watermelons. In one story, he tells how, as a boy, he lifted a melon out of a farmer’s cart while the farmer was waiting on a customer. He ran away with it, retreated with it to a “secluded bower,” broke it open, and found it green. This led to some soul-searching.
“What ought a boy do who has stolen a green watermelon? What would George Washington do? Now was the time for all the lessons inculcated at Sunday School to act. And they did act. The word that came to me was ‘restitution.’”
So young Twain took the watermelon back to the farmer and conned him into apologizing and handing over a ripe one.Here lies, in my opinion, the solution to the slippery conundrum of fruit vs. vegetable. The watermelon, Oklahoma, is not a vegetable. It’s a fruit.
Nobody goes to that kind of trouble over a vegetable.
- State Symbols USA lists all official state symbols, categorized by both symbol category and state.
- Mark Twain’s Melon is the full text of his speech on “Practical Morality” delivered at the New Savage Club, London.
What determines that a tomato is a fruit? ›
The botanical classification: Tomatoes are fruits.
A botanical fruit would have at least one seed and grow from the flower of the plant. With this definition in mind, tomatoes are classified as fruit because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.
Tomato is a simple fleshy fruit of berry type.What determines a fruit from a vegetable? ›
Botanically, fruits and vegetables are classified depending on which part of the plant they come from. A fruit develops from the flower of a plant, while the other parts of the plant are categorized as vegetables. Fruits contain seeds, while vegetables can consist of roots, stems and leaves.Is tomato a fruit or a vegetable debate? ›
Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists. Botanically, a fruit is a ripened flower ovary and contains seeds. Tomatoes, plums, zucchinis, and melons are all edible fruits, but things like maple “helicopters” and floating dandelion puffs are fruits too.Why is tomato a false fruit? ›
Tomato is a parthenocarpic fruit. True fruits develop from ovary while false fruits are those which develop from some other part of the flower except the ovary.Can 1 tomato produce fruit? ›
Tomatoes are self-pollinating, as flowers are equipped with both male and female parts. One tomato plant is capable of producing a crop of fruit on its own, without the need of planting another one.Can a dog eat a tomato? ›
Are Tomatoes Good for Dogs? Ripe tomatoes are non-toxic, so they aren't poisonous to dogs. In fact, the many health benefits that tomatoes offer is why they are often included as an ingredient in pet food. Tomatoes have a lot of fiber, which helps support your dog's digestion.Why aren't cucumbers fruit? ›
Cucumbers are a type of edible plant that belongs to the gourd family. It's widely cultivated and makes a nutritious addition to any diet. Cucumber is usually considered a vegetable because of how it's used in the culinary world. However, as it grows from flowers and contains seeds, it's botanically a fruit.What fruit tastes like a tomato? ›
Getting the Taste of the Tamarillo A red fruit showing up in stores has an egg shape, a tomato texture and a flavor all its own. The tamarillo's origins are in the Andes.Is A Jalapeno A fruit? ›
Yes. Jalapenos are fruits with seeds.
What determines a fruit to be a fruit? ›
A fruit is a mature, ripened ovary, along with the contents of the ovary. The ovary is the ovule-bearing reproductive structure in the plant flower. The ovary serves to enclose and protect the ovules, from the youngest stages of flower development until the ovules become fertilized and turn into seeds.What fruits get confused as vegetables? ›
Fruits commonly mistaken as vegetables: Tomatoes, Peppers, Beans, Peapods, Avocado, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Olives, Corn Kernels, Pumpkins & Nuts. Another thing I couldn't believe made the fruit list are nuts. Nuts are technically a fruit that is made up of a hard shell and a seed.What are the benefits of eating raw tomato daily? ›
Getting more tomatoes into your diet may make you less likely to have a stroke, which is when blood flow gets cut off to a part of your brain. Studies suggest that they may ease inflammation, boost your immune system, lower your cholesterol levels, and keep your blood from clotting.Are tomatoes healthy yes or no? ›
In fact, she points out that edible nightshade veggies — including tomatoes, bell peppers, or eggplant — are the opposite of bad for you, they're beneficial! These veggies contain tons of important nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds.Are tomatoes good for you yes or no? ›
It's also one of the best things you can do for your body. The rich red color comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant plentiful in just a few foods. Plus, a large tomato offers decent amounts of vitamin C and potassium, which lowers blood pressure, as well as ferulic acid, an antioxidant.Is Avocado a false fruit? ›
Avocado is a fruit. More specifically, botanists define it as a large berry with a single seed. Although it's not nearly as sweet as many other fruits, it falls under the definition of fruit, which is “the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food” (1).Is cucumber a false fruit? ›
The false fruit includes seedless fruits. Some examples of false fruit are apple, pear, gourd, and cucumber that develop from the thalamus, cashew-nut develops from the peduncle, jackfruit and pineapple develop from the entire inflorescence. Some other examples are banana, strawberry, etc.
Like the pepper, tomato, and pumpkin, watermelon is a fruit, botanically. It is the fruit of a plant originally from a vine of southern Africa. Loosely considered a type of melon (although not in the genus Cucumis), watermelon has a smooth exterior rind and a juicy, sweet interior flesh.How do I make my tomatoes produce more fruit? ›
Are your tomato plants getting the nutrition they need to grow plump, tasty fruits? Even if you have rich soil, from the moment the first flowers appear you should be feeding your tomatoes with an organic fertilizer that's high in potassium, or potash. Potash helps promote flower initiation, and hence fruit production.Do tomatoes regrow once picked? ›
Determinate tomato plants are "programmed" to grow, bloom and fruit just once during a growing season, says The Old Farmer's Almanac. After the fruits on these compact plants are borne, the plants produce no more fruits and eventually die.
Can you keep a tomato plant alive all year? ›
the answer is a resounding yes. In their native tropical growing range, tomato plants are perennials that live for many years. In cold climates, however, they do not survive winter outdoors because they are not frost-tolerant. Because of this, most gardeners grow tomatoes as annuals.Can dogs eat pickles? ›
In general, pickles are not toxic to dogs. They contain some nutritional health benefits, which in theory would make giving them to your pup perfectly fine. However, they are extremely high in sodium and contain ingredients that could be potentially harmful to a dog.Are cucumbers OK for dogs? ›
Are Cucumbers Safe for Dogs? Cucumbers are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, and offer a low-calorie, crunchy snack that many dogs love. Cucumbers only contain about 8 calories per one-half cup of slices, compared to the 40 calories in a single medium biscuit, and are very low in sodium and fat.Can dogs eat potatoes? ›
White potatoes belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes; like tomatoes, raw potatoes contain solanine, a compound that is toxic to some dogs. However, cooking a potato reduces the levels of solanine. If you do feed your dog a potato, it should be baked or boiled, with nothing added to it.Are olives fruit or vegetable? ›
The olive is a fruit from the olive tree, also known as Olea europaea. The parent family of this tree species is Oleaceae, which includes the flowering trees lilac, jasmine & forsythia. The olive tree produces a type of fruit called a drupe.Are cucumbers vegan? ›
Cucumber is vegan. A vegan dietitian reviewed this note on cucumber for Fig.Is A Pickle a fruit? ›
Pickles are technically fruits, but they are also vegetables and berries. Cucumbers, which develop from a flower and have seeds but no pit, are used to make pickles. They are a vegetable, fruit, and berry all at once, according to botany.What the fruit that tastes like beef? ›
This special fruit tastes just like meat. According to The Guardian, jackfruit is the largest known tree fruit in the world — in fact, it can weigh up to 100 pounds.What is the fruit that tastes like meat? ›
Jackfruit is a very large tropical fruit often used as a meat substitute. It packs some nutritional wallop, and the fact that you can cook, chunk or shred it like chicken or pork makes it a go-to main ingredient in many vegetarian and vegan dishes. Its flavor is neutral, and it takes to all kinds of seasonings.What is the name of the fruit that tastes like sick? ›
Noni is one of those fruits that neither looks nor smells good. It has such a pungent smell that people call it "vomit fruit."
Are pineapples fruits? ›
A pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple, but a fruit consisting of many berries that have grown together. This also means that Pineapples are not a single fruit, but a group of berries that have fused together.Is there a spicy fruit? ›
Siling labuyo fruits are small but are very hot. It measures around 80,000-100,000 Scoville units which is at the lower end of the range for the hotter habanero chili.How do the British say jalapeño? ›
The Mexican chilli pepper often catches us Brits out. We tend to pronounce Jalapeno as 'Hala-pen-yo. ' The correct pronunciation is 'Hah-lah-pain-yoh.What is the rule to be a fruit? ›
If it's sweet and juicy like a strawberry, it must be a fruit. And if it's savoury and fibrous like a carrot, it must be a vegetable.What is fruit according to the Bible? ›
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit (sometimes, incorrectly, referred to as the Fruits of the Holy Spirit) is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to chapter 5 of the Epistle to the Galatians: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, ...Which is healthier fruit vs vegetable? ›
As we have already mentioned, fruit has on average more sugar than vegetables. So, if you want to lose weight, you should opt for vegetables rather than fruit. In general, vegetables are therefore healthier than fruit. Especially sweet fruit contains more fructose and should therefore be consumed in moderation.What vegetable looks like a brain? ›
I have always been intrigued by the humble celery root, also known as celeriac. No, it's not the root of the common celery. It's grown for its root… and not for its leaves and stems.What is the rarest fruit or vegetable? ›
- Black Sapote. Open Black Sapote. ...
- Gac Fruit. Open Gac Fruit & Seeds. ...
- Kiwano Melon. Opened Kiwano Melon. ...
- Lychee. Lychee Growing In The Wild. ...
- Mangosteen. Peeled Mangosteen. ...
- Buddha's Hand. Buddha's Hand Growing In The Wild. ...
- Jabuticaba. Jabuticaba Growing In The Wild. ...
- Dragon Fruit.
Tomatoes provide essential antioxidants.
This is primarily because these vitamins and beta-carotene work as antioxidants to neutralize harmful free radicals in the blood.
5 Binoy et al. reported that tomato skin and seeds have 3 times more lycopene compared to the pulp . 5 Furthermore, tomato skin and seeds were reported to contain essential amino acids and high amounts of minerals including: zinc, manganese, copper, and iron, that also function as antioxidants within the body.
What happens if you eat tomatoes everyday? ›
Tomatoes contain a large amount of malic acid and citric acid, which will trigger gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition, eating too many tomatoes can also cause other gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).Are tomatoes good for kidneys? ›
Tomatoes are a good way to add extra potassium to your diet and decrease the need to take an additional potassium pill. Eating tomatoes will not have an effect on forming kidney stones.Who should not drink tomato juice? ›
When searching for a healthy variety, choose 100% tomato juice with no salt or sugars added. Additionally, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may want to avoid tomato juice as it can worsen symptoms ( 28 ).Is it OK to eat fresh tomatoes every day? ›
Eating tomatoes daily will provide you with many vitamins and minerals, but you'll still receive the benefits if you eat them less often. There is no recommended number of tomatoes to eat per day.Are tomatoes healthier raw or cooked? ›
-- Cooking tomatoes -- such as in spaghetti sauce -- makes the fruit heart-healthier and boosts its cancer-fighting ability. All this, despite a loss of vitamin C during the cooking process, say Cornell food scientists. The reason: cooking substantially raises the levels of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals.What organ are tomatoes good for? ›
Tomatoes offer several potential research-backed benefits, including protection for brain, heart, and gut health. The vegetable, which is also considered a fruit, is a solid source of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants—namely, lycopene.How many tomatoes a day is healthy? ›
To make the tomatoes count as one of your five-a-day, the NHS recommends eating one medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes as one portion. It's completely safe to eat a portion of tomatoes everyday and as an added bonus they are low in calories and have a high water content.Why is a tomato a fruit but not a pepper? ›
To a botanist, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. This means that tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn kernels, and bean and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, pears, peaches, apricots, melons and mangos.Why is tomato a fruit but potato a vegetable? ›
A fruit is defined as a part of a plant that develops from the ovary of a flower and contains seeds. Vegetables develop from other plant parts, such as roots, leaves, and stems. Potatoes are thickened stem and hence not a fruit.Why is a tomato a vegetable and not a fruit? ›
Tomatoes are botanically defined as fruits because they form from a flower and contain seeds. Still, they're most often utilized like 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 applications.
Is A Jalapeno a fruit? ›
Yes. Jalapenos are fruits with seeds.Are tomatoes good for you? ›
"For example, tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant compound that is thought to have anticancer properties and may play a role in skin health," explains Beaver. "Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant important for immune health.What veggies are actually fruit? ›
And a vegetable specialist growing tomatoes, peppers and eggplant would grow those items similarly, even though all three of them are fruits, botanically speaking,” he added. Did you catch that? Scientifically, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are all fruits.Is An avocado A vegetable or a fruit? ›
Avocados are one of the few fruits (yes, technically they're a fruit, not a veggie) that contain healthy unsaturated fats. These fats help lower undesirable LDL cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fat. The popular Haas avocado, which has dark-green, nubby skin, grows year-round in California.Is ketchup a smoothie? ›
Ketchup is not a smoothie, not only because of the vinegar content, but also because smoothies are cold, but ketchup is actually cooked. It is cooked before it is bottled up and then sold.What is a controversial fruit or vegetable? ›
The most famous example is probably the tomato. Its status as a fruit or a vegetable was so contentious that in 1893 the Supreme Court had to weigh in and settle the issue once and for all.What did the US Supreme Court rule on tomatoes? ›
Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the Court held, 9–0, that the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit for purposes of tariffs, imports, and customs.When did they decide a tomato is a fruit? ›
“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas,” wrote Justice Horace Gray in his 1893 opinion.Are tomatoes legally vegetables? ›
Tomatoes are "vegetables," and not "fruit," within the meaning of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, c.