Supreme Court Rules: Tomato is Not a Fruit – 1893
On this day in 1893, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit.
What? The Supreme Court made a ruling about tomatoes?
The Tariff Act of 1883 required that a tariff (tax) had to be paid on imported vegetables, but there was no tariff on imported fruits. Some people claimed that they shouldn't have been charged taxes on their imported tomatoes, pointing out that tomatoes are fruits and therefore should have been tax-free.
However, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Tariff Act used the ordinary meaning of the words fruit and vegetable, and under this ordinary meaning, a tomato is classified as a vegetable.
During the case, both sides brought out dictionaries and read aloud definitions. Apparently everyone agree that, scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. Fruits develop from the ovaries of flowers and contain the seeds of the plant—and tomatoes fit this description perfectly.
A vegetable is often some other part of a plant, not the fruit or seed. Examples include lettuce (which are leaves), carrots (roots), potatoes (tubers), cauliflower (flowers) and celery (stems or stalks).
But some foods that are botanically classified as fruits—like tomatoes—are still thought of as vegetables. This seems to be primarily based on their use: vegetables are thought of in connection to meals and savory foods rather than desserts and sweet foods.
Spot the Vegetables that are really Fruits:
Here are a bunch of foods commonly called vegetables. Which ones are botanically classified as fruits?
ONIONS, YAMS, CUCUMBERS, RHUBARB, BEETS, TURNIPS, PEAS, SWEET POTATOES, BEANS, ASPARAGUS, RADISHES, PARSNIPS, CABBAGE, KALE, GARLIC, SQUASH, GREEN PEPPERS, PUMPKINS, ROMAINE, SPINACH, EGGPLANTS, COLLARD GREENS, BROCCOLI.
Answers: cucumbers, peas, beans, squash, green peppers, pumpkins, and eggplants are all fruits. By the way, rhubarb is the stalk of the plant, and is commonly (correctly) called a vegetable but sometimes called a fruit because it is used in sweet, fruity foods.
Eat some tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes—yummy tomatoes of all sizes, colors, and kinds. You can eat them plain or sliced in sandwiches or on top of pizza, wedged in salads, or chopped in salsa or omelets! Try tomatoes in mac'n'cheese!
Learn some botany.
Here is a simple activity about the parts of a plant. When you're done, go on to “NEXT” at the bottom for more plant fun. Or start at the beginning of “The Great Plant Escape.”
This interactive lesson about trees gives some great information about all plants.
Dissect some fruits and flowers.
Get some flowers and/or fruits from the garden or grocery store. Carefully cut them apart to see the structures and seeds (always make sure an adult supervises or approves).
You might want to try cutting familiar fruits in unfamiliar ways. For example, can you cut an apple in such a way that you see a star? Be sure to eat the fruit!
To help your flower dissections, here is a demo on YouTube and here are detailed instructions on Home Training Tools.