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FutureStarrIs a Tomato a Fruitor
This question is a perennial favorite among foodies. But what about humankind? Can we characterize people as plants? In a recent episode of the podcast This American Life, Clive Thompson, a New York magazine journalist, discusses this "fruit and vegetable question" with scientist Evelyn Pliskin, who is tomato's foremost expert. Soon, they evolve into a conversation about our species as a whole. "I'm not going to go that far," she says cuttingly.
The age-old question actually has an answer—it's both! 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. For some reason, people got hung up on tomatoes, but the “fruit or vegetable” question could also work for any vegetable with seeds. (Source:
Now, nutritionally, the term “fruit” is used to describe sweet and fleshy botanical fruits, and “vegetable” is used to indicate a wide variety of plant parts that are not so high in fructose. In many cultures, vegetables tend to be served as part of the main dish or side, whereas sweet fruits are typically snacks or desserts. Thus, roots, tubers, stems, flower buds, leaves, and certain botanical fruits, including green beans, pumpkins, and of course tomatoes, are all considered vegetables by nutritionists. There is no hard-and-fast rule that clearly designates a botanical fruit as a vegetable, but, given that tomatoes are generally not used in desserts and are closely related to other fruit-vegetables (e.g., eggplants and peppers), it is not too counterintuitive for tomatoes to be classified as vegetables. (Source: www.britannica.com)
To summarise, tomatoes are usually prepared in savoury dishes despite botanically being a fruit, which is why they are often described as a vegetable from a culinary perspective. Who cares, though, when tomatoes taste as good as they do! We can all agree tomatoes are easy snacks, delicious in stews and are a healthy option in our diets, providing us with fibre, vitamins and minerals. (Source:
The confusion about 'fruit' and 'vegetable' arises because of the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. 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). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are true fruits, and so are many kinds of nut. Some plants have a soft part which supports the seeds and is also called a 'fruit', though it is not developed from the ovary: the strawberry is an example. (Source: www.lexico.com)