We can easily distinguish between most fruits and vegetables, but when it comes to the age-old debate of whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, people aren't always sure what to say. The answer is that tomatoes are technically both. The definition can differ depending on whether you're speaking to a botanist – whose definition is botanical – or a nutritionist or chef, whose definition is most likely to be culinary.
The botanical classification: tomatoes are fruits
Botanists classify plants according to their physiological characteristics, including structure, function, and organisation. Therefore, botanically speaking, fruits are seed-bearing products formed by the ovary of a flowering plant – the plant’s way of spreading its seeds. Botanical fruits are fruits that grow from the plant's flowers and have at least one seed. According to this definition, tomatoes are considered fruits because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.
Yet, from a culinary perspective, it's a whole other story.
The culinary classification: tomatoes are vegetables
Foodies, nutritionists, and chefs use the culinary classification system, which defines fruits and vegetables differently, depending on their uses and flavour profiles. From a culinary perspective, vegetables have a tougher texture, are blander in flavour, and are usually cooked. In contrast, fruits have a soft texture, tend to be sweet or tart, and are typically eaten raw or in desserts or jams. Tomatoes can be juicy, sweet and enjoyed raw. Yet, tomatoes are also used in savoury dishes, which is why they are usually classified as vegetables. Generally, tomatoes are not used in desserts, and they are closely related to other fruit-vegetables, so it makes sense for tomatoes to be classified as vegetables.
To sum up - tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables
Tomatoes are fruits that are regarded as vegetables by nutritionists.
Though tomato is a fruit from a botanical perspective, it’s often used in savoury dishes, hence its culinary classification as a vegetable.
Other fruits that are commonly known as vegetables
Are they vegetables or fruits? For some reason, tomatoes are always taken as a classic example of this eternal debate. Tomatoes are not the only common vegetables that are fruits. We have seen that, in the world of food, there are many plants most people consider vegetables that are actually fruits, botanically speaking. We have already learned that fruits are ripened flower ovaries and contain seeds, so this botanical classification also applies to any vegetable with seeds: squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, beans, peas, chickpeas, courgettes or zucchini, corn, avocados, and olives.
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