The Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

October 11, 2015

Tomatoes copy

Photographer: Rebecca Roush
Summary AuthorRebecca Roush
Shown above is a tomato ripening on the vine of my backyard garden in Seattle, Washington. Tomatoes, a New World fruit, belong to the nightshade family Solanaceae. Originating in South America in the high altitudes of the Andes, its use as food was spread to the larger world by the Spanish during their travels and colonization of the Americas.

The reference of the tomato as a vegetable is the result of the U.S. government changing its nomenclature in 1893 for trade purposes. At the time, there was a ten percent duty on vegetables but not on fruit. This argument went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court admitted that tomatoes were botanically fruits, however, because they're often served with dinner, it was ruled that they're vegetables in an everyday sense.
The tomatoes purchased in the produce section of a grocery store today are hardly similar to those first harvested in South America. Modern agribusiness has modified the original fruit so that it arrives on your table in the middle of winter looking like a tomato and having little else in common with its ancestor. Photo taken on September 7, 2015.

Photo Details: Camera Maker: HTC; Camera Model: 831C; Focal Length: 3.82mm; Exposure Time: 0.0010 s (1/953); ISO equiv: 125.