Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Sometimes, we just don’t know. You think you’ve got it sussed and then tomatoes come along and throw you for a loop. Is it actually possible to know the difference between what makes a fruit and what makes a vegetable? Yes, it is.
Fruits and vegetables are two food groups that should make up an essential part of your diet. They keep you healthy and at a lower risk of disease, plus they’re pretty tasty too. However, while they might serve a very similar purpose, you don’t want them to get mixed up. A fruit salad probably wouldn’t be quite so appealing if you chucked a few carrots and peas into the mix. So, how do you tell one apart from the other?
A lot of the time, you just need to look at their structure. From a botanist’s point of view, fruits are of a seed-bearing nature. They grow from the ovaries of flowering plants, whereas vegetables originate from leaves and roots, among other places. By this categorization, things like apples and pears are considered fruits, whereas potatoes, spinach and broccoli are all vegetables. Where does the tomato fit into this, though? It too produces seeds, so does that mean it’s definitely a fruit?
Although scientists might take this point of view, a lot of culinary experts differentiate between fruits and vegetables in their own way. Rather than considering the structure of the produce, they make decisions based on the taste. In the eyes of many chefs, a fruit should taste sweet. However, not everything scientifically classified as a fruit is quite so appealing to taste buds. Anything that’s viewed more as savory than sweet, such as eggplants, is thus classed as a vegetable.
So, whose opinion should you trust?
Taking it to court
Both definitions of what constitutes a fruit and a vegetable are acceptable, but their sometimes contradictory nature makes it hard to know which one to abide by. If you’re hoping for an official classification, then the closest you’re probably going to get is a ruling from 1893. Yes, the argument over classifying fruits and vegetables made it all the way to court.
There was a dispute back in the 1890s over how imported tomatoes should be taxed. Fruits and vegetables were taxed differently, with the latter having a higher price. When it came down to making a decision, the court unanimously ruled in favor of the tomato being classified as a vegetable. Although they accepted the scientific nature of calling it a fruit, they deemed the views of culinary experts more appropriate in the situation. Therefore, tomatoes were taxed as a vegetable and the debate was concluded… for a few years at least.
How you choose to define tomatoes and all other fruits and vegetables is entirely up to you. The sky isn’t going to fall if you start labeling cucumber as a fruit, although your friends might look at you slightly strangely. Whatever you decide at least you now have a way to justify it.