Posted by Wen Dan Jiang on

Are Tomatoes Vegetables or Fruits?

In life, there are some age-old questions that have left even the most level-headed amongst us baffled.

Questions such as: What came first, the chicken or the egg, and does a watched pot really never boil? Another question that has caused a great deal of confusion over the years, however, is whether or not a tomato is actually a vegetable or a fruit.

Some people are adamant that tomatoes are vegetables, whereas others swear that they’re fruits. If they are indeed fruits, why are they not included in fruit salads, and if they are vegetables, why don’t we prepare them the same way that we prepare other veggies?

If you’re looking for a definitive answer to this question, look no further because we’re here to provide clarity. Kind of.

In answer to the question of whether tomatoes are vegetables or fruits, they are in fact both.

Confused? Don’t worry, all will become clear.

Botanical classification

If you look up the botanical classification of tomatoes, you will see that they are in fact classed as fruits.

A botanical classification uses a plant’s physiological characteristics such as the function, structure, and appearance of the plant.

From a botanist’s standpoint therefore, a fruit is a seed-bearing product which is grown from the ovary of a flowering plant. Basically, the fruit is the plant’s way of spreading its seed and reproducing.

Therefore, with this in mind, tomatoes are technically classed as fruits, due to the fact that they grow from the flower of a tomato plant and they contain seeds.

Culinary classification

Whereas from a botanical standpoint, most flowers that gardeners grow are grown for aesthetics, tomato plants are not grown for show, but rather, they are grown for culinary uses.

Therefore, it’s important to also take into consideration, the culinary classification of a tomato plant, which classes it as a vegetable and not a fruit.

You see, from a culinary perspective, vegetables are usually tougher than fruits, they’re blander, and they lack sweetness like you would find in fruits.

Fruits are usually either sweet and/or tart, as opposed to veggies, which have more of a subtle flavour profile.

Why are tomatoes classed as both?

How can a tomato be both a fruit and a vegetable? After all, isn’t that confusing? Well, yes it is.

Basically, the definitions serve their own purposes. The botanical classification of it being a fruit, for example, can be useful for botanists looking to explore the origins of tomatoes and learn more about them.

Generally speaking, however, the culinary classification is considered more beneficial for the general public because in reality, it just makes more sense. If we classed tomatoes as fruits, there would be nothing stopping food manufacturers from using tomatoes in dishes which call for ingredients such as “mixed fruits”.

Can you imagine tucking into a fruit salad, only to find that in amongst your apples, grapes, melon, pineapples, and mandarins, you also had tomatoes? Don’t get us wrong, tomatoes can wok very well with certain fruits, it’s just that they work better with savoury dishes such as curries, soups, stews, and casseroles.

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