I often wondered whether Tomato is a fruit or vegetable since I have always enjoyed eating tomatoes in all forms, be it, salads, coleslaws, and even juices. While scientists have officially declared tomatoes as fruits, cooks, on the other hand, feel that tomatoes are vegetables. So today, let us debate is tomato a fruit or vegetable.
1. Origin of The Name
The name tomato is taken from a Nahuatl, a Native Mexican word that means fat thing, or swelling fruit. And the scientist gave it the name Solanum Lycopersicum, which, when, translated came to be known as wolf peach.
2. Scientific Proof
Scientists have claimed that tomato is a fruit, and they have botanically proven it. It is a berry with its seeds enclosed within the ovary. According to scientists, for something to be classified as fruit the following conditions should be met:
- It should have grown from the flower of a plant.
- It must have at least one seed.
Since tomatoes are grown from the flower of their plant and have seeds, they are considered to be fruits. (Also read Are Potatoes Vegetables or Fruits?)
3. Different Colors of Tomatoes
Apart from their red signature color, tomatoes are available in many colors. Another reason why is tomato a fruit or vegetable question remains unanswered.
- Tomatoes can be pink, yellow, green, nearly black, purple, white, and orange.
- They not only have different colors but also some varieties are streaked and striped.
- Tomatoes of different colors have different tastes.
4. Different Types of Tomatoes
Around 10-15k varieties of tomatoes are known to date. Most of them are hybrid varieties i.e. varieties created by mixing two or more parent plants. Although there are thousands of them, let us discuss the most commonly used ones and the dishes that can be cooked and baked.
- Roma Tomatoes, also known as plum tomatoes, are sweet and juicy. It makes them the best choice to make sauces or to be used in salads.
- Beefsteak Tomatoes are a perfect choice for sandwiches and hamburgers because they are sturdy and firm.
- Cherry Tomatoes are the tiniest, as suggested by their name. They are bite-sized and suitable for salads, skewers, and kebabs. They are so small that no cutting is required.
- Vine/Vining Tomatoes are large. They are likely to be used for sandwiches and making sauces. As they are sold, with their vines attached to them, they came to be known as vine tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine.
5. Best Storage Methods
Is Tomato a fruit or vegetable debate becomes secondary to the question of storage.
- It is best to store these at room temperature and not in refrigerators.
- Keeping them away from direct sunlight with their stem down will be the best trick to increase the time for which they can be stored. This trick will preserve the flavor prevents it from rotting, while if refrigerated, it will lose its flavor.
- Tomatoes are also preserved by drying. First, they are dried in the sun & dehydrated. Then, they are stored and/or sold in air-tight containers.
6. Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Be it a fruit or vegetable, tomatoes are laden with a number of health benefits. These red-large berries are a rich source of Vitamin C & K, folate and, potassium. Water content is about 95 percent, while the remaining 4 percent is carbohydrates. And less than 1 percent is fats and proteins. The main compounds found in tomatoes include antioxidants. (See 7 Recipes for Fresh Tomatoes from Garden)
- A glass of tomato juice is highly nutritious ad can provide our daily Vitamin C requirement.
- The various health benefits of tomatoes include the reduced chances of blood clotting, prevention of inflammation, and reduced risk of heart-related problems. Two important minerals for maintaining a good heart, potassium, and magnesium, are contained in tomatoes.
- Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene which is helpful against sunburns.
- They are also beneficial for skin health as they contain vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin (C, K), folate (Vitamin B9), and potassium.
- Vitamin A is converted from a pigment called Cartenoid thus, essential for good eyesight. It also protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals.
7. Harmful Effects of Tomatoes
These red fruits are rich in nutrients and provide lots of health benefits to humans, but there are certain situations where they can be harmful.
Most tomatoes are harvested before they are completely ripe. Therefore they are green or greenish-yellow in color. Then, ethylene gas is used to ripe them. We can develop certain health issues because of the consumption of ethylene along with tomatoes. Thus, you should wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking with them.
It is rare for someone to be allergic to tomatoes. But still, people with a grass-pollen allergy can be allergic to tomatoes as well. Such allergy is referred to as oral-allergy syndrome or pollen food allergy syndrome. The body attacks the protein supplied from fruit, mistaking it to be pollen, and as a result, a person can develop symptoms like itchy throat, or swollen mouth. Sometimes, people with latex allergy develop an allergy to tomatoes too.
8. Legal Dispute: Is Tomato a Fruit or Vegetable
The United States Tariff Act of March 3, 1883 imposed taxes on imported vegetables, not fruits. The legal federation raised this matter, as an important factor to determine the tax on tomatoes. The matter became a legal dispute that was later settled by the United States Supreme Court. The court presented their part of the definition that tomato is served with vegetables and not with desserts, hence it is a vegetable and stayed the tax law.
In 2005, New Jersey students got Tomato termed as the State Vegetable of New Jersey.
After learning of the health benefits of tomatoes, do we really care whether tomato is a fruit or vegetable. I suppose, we don’t. So, stop fussing over it and go eat one!