You may have already heard that tomato is a fruit. Many of us can easily distinguish the differences between most fruit and vegetables. When it comes to the age-old question of, is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable, the answer is, tomatoes are technically both!
The botanical classification: Tomatoes are fruits.
A botanist would use the botanical classification, which is based on the plant’s physiological characteristics, like the structure, function and organization of the plant. Therefore, botanically speaking, a ‘fruit’ is the seed-bearing product that grows from the ovary of a flowering plant or, in other words, a fruit is the plants’ way of spreading its’ seeds. A botanical fruit would have at least one seed and grow from the flower of the plant. With this definition in mind, tomatoes are classified as fruit because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.
A ‘vegetable’ in botanical terms on the other hand, does not have a set definition but is more of a general term encompassing all other edible aspects of the plant; the roots, stems and leaves. So, we would classify foods like apples, strawberries and peaches as fruits including tomatoes!
The Culinary Classification: Tomatoes are vegetables.
A nutritionist or a chef would use the culinary classification system that defines fruits and vegetables in a slightly different manner, basing it on the way the plants are used and their flavor profiles. Culinary speaking, a ‘vegetable’ usually has a tougher texture, tastes blander and often requires cooking in dishes like stews, soups or stir-fries. Whereas, a ‘fruit’ has a soft texture, tends to be either sweet or tart and is often enjoyed raw or in desserts or jams. Tomatoes can be juicy, sweet and enjoyed raw. Yet, we also prepare tomatoes in savory dishes, which is why we usually classify tomatoes as vegetables.