Is Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: July 18, 2023

Is Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Many of us can readily tell the difference between most fruits and vegetables, but we're stumped on whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable!

There's no need to look any further because tomatoes are technically both! While both fruits and vegetables are part of our suggested 5-a-day diet, some variations exist between them. However, speaking with a botanist, who uses the botanical term, or a nutritionist or chef, who would most likely use the culinary meaning, can make a difference.

Tomatoes are one of the most flexible vegetable options available throughout the summer season. They're usually classified with vegetables in the culinary world, although you may have heard them referred to as fruits.

The discrepancy in use between scientists and chefs causes the misconception concerning 'fruit' and vegetable.' A tomato is unmistakably a fruit, according to science. Actual fruits originate from the ovary at the base of the flower and contain the plant's seeds (though cultivated forms may be seedless). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are all-natural fruits, as are many other types of nuts. Some plants contain a soft component that maintains the seeds and is also referred to as a 'fruit,' even though it does not emerge from the ovary: the strawberry is an example.

Tomatoes are undeniably one of the most flexible foods available, equally at home in a summer salad as they are in a hearty pizza sauce. So is it possible that we're eating a vegetable? This article delves into whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables and why they're commonly misunderstood.

Difference between a Vegetable and a Fruit

Fruits and vegetables receive a lot of nutritional attention since they are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables have many similarities, but they also have some unique distinctions. However, these distinctions can vary greatly depending on whether you speak with a farmer or a chef.

The distinction between savory fruits and sweet veggies might be perplexing at times. Furthermore, botanists and culinary experts dispute the classification of various fruits and vegetables, confusing matters further. Botanists categorize fruits and vegetables according to the portion of the plant from which they are derived. Chefs, on the other hand, utilize taste characteristics such as sweet or salty to determine if something is a vegetable or a fruit.

The following are some fruits and vegetables that belong to two separate groups and that people frequently mix up.


While botanists classify the tomato as a fruit, many people consider it a vegetable owing to its savory flavor. On the other hand, a tomato develops from the plant's bloom and contains seeds, making it a fruit.


Cucumbers, according to the FDC, are also vegetables.

On the other hand, Cucumbers grow from the flowers of the plants. Therefore, they are also classified as a fruit since they contain seeds throughout.

Green Beans 

Green beans are considered vegetables by most people, and the FDC concurs.

On the other hand, Green beans sprout from the bloom of their plant and contain beans, which are their seeds. As a result, they are classified as fruit.

Tomatoes Are Classified as Fruits by the Botanical Community

A botanist would utilize botanical categorization, which is based on physiological properties of the plant, such as structure, function, and organization. Thus, botanically speaking, a 'fruit' is a seed-bearing product that arises from the ovaries of a blooming plant; in other words, a fruit is the plant's means of distributing its seeds. A botanical fruit contains at least one seed and develops from the plant's blossom. For example, tomatoes are considered fruit under this definition since they contain seeds and grow from the blossom of the tomato plant.

In botanical terminology, a vegetable' does not have a specific meaning but rather is a broad phrase that encompasses all other edible components of the plant, such as the roots, stems, and leaves. So, putting on our botany hats, we'd label things like apples, strawberries, and peaches as fruits, along with tomatoes!

Fruits and vegetables are classified botanically depending on the structure and function of the plant component in question.

Fruits are created from flowers, contain seeds, and aid in the plant's reproductive process. Apples, peaches, blueberries, and raspberries are examples of common fruits. On the other hand, vegetables are the plant's roots, stems, leaves, or other auxiliary components. Spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, and celery are some well-known veggies.

All fruits contain a single or many seeds and develop from a plant's bloom. Like other genuine fruits, Tomatoes grow from tiny yellow blossoms on the vine and naturally contain many seeds. These seeds may be gathered and utilized to grow new tomato plants. Surprisingly, some current tomato types have been purposely bred to stop producing seeds. In this scenario, a tomato is considered the plant's fruit in botanical terminology.

Tomatoes Are Classified as Vegetables in the Culinary World

A nutritionist, chef, or even your grandmother might use the culinary categorization system, which describes fruits and vegetables differently based on how they are utilized and their flavor characteristics. For example, in culinary terms, a Vegetable has a more complex texture, tastes blander, and frequently requires cooking in meals such as stews, soups, or stir-fries. On the other hand, a 'fruit' has a soft feel, is either sweet or sour, and is commonly consumed raw or in sweets or preserves.

Tomatoes may be juicy, sweet, and delicious when eaten fresh. However, we often use tomatoes in savory meals, so they are frequently classified as vegetables.

Tomatoes are technically fruits, although they are officially classified as vegetables. In 1893, Congress approved tariff legislation that imposed a 10% duty on entire vegetables. As a result, merchants claimed that tomatoes are fruit to avoid paying the tax. However, the Supreme Court ruled in the case that tomatoes should be categorized as a vegetable rather than a fruit for the "purposes of trade and commerce" because chefs prepare them and customers eat them like vegetables. This means that, legally, tomatoes are vegetables.

The categorization system for fruits and vegetables differs significantly from how they are classified botanically when cooking. Fruits and vegetables are used and employed in culinary practice primarily because of their taste qualities.

A fruit, in general, has a delicate feel and errs on the sweet side. It may also have a sour or acidic flavor. It's best used in sweets, pastries, smoothies, jams, or as a snack on its own.

On the other hand, a vegetable usually has a blander and perhaps a harsh flavor. It generally has a more complex texture than fruit, and while some may be eaten raw, others may need to be cooked. They work well in savory meals such as stir-fries, stews, salads, and casseroles.

Botanical Vs Culinary Classification

So, why can we describe tomatoes in two ways when it confuses everyone? These definitions serve distinct functions. A botanist, for example, can utilize botanical categorization to find the origins of tomatoes, identify different types of tomatoes, and learn how to cultivate and harvest diverse tomatoes.

Because items from the same botanical family may not have the same nutritional contents, the culinary definition may be more beneficial for the general public, nutritionists, and chefs.

For example, cantaloupe melons, watermelons, butternut squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins are all the same botanical family but have distinct nutritional profiles. On the other hand, avocado, olives, pumpkin, tomato, sweetcorn, courgette, cucumber, green peas, chili, and aubergine are some botanical fruits that are considered vegetables.

What Makes Tomatoes So Special?

Tomatoes are abundant in lycopene, an antioxidant. It gives them their brilliantly red color while also protecting them from UV rays from the sun. In the same way, it can help protect your cells from harm. Tomatoes also contain potassium, vitamins B and E, and other minerals. Tomatoes are classed as a vegetable in the 5-a-day guidelines, which is the culinary definition because that is how most people learn about fruit and vegetables. A medium-sized or seven cherry tomatoes constitutes one adult share of a tomato; remember to consume various fruits and vegetables to meet your daily 5-a-day requirement.

Boosts Immune System

Lycopene protects cells from free radicals, which can cause cell damage and impair the immune system. As a result, foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, may reduce your risk of lung, stomach, or prostate cancer. Certain studies may also help prevent illness in the pancreas, colon, throat, mouth, breast, and cervix.

Keep Heart Healthy

Lycopene may also help decrease your blood pressure and LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels. Your chances of having heart disease may be reduced as a result. In addition, vitamins B and E and antioxidants, known as flavonoids, are found in tomatoes and may benefit your heart health.

Prevention of Eyes

Tomatoes include lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect your eyes from blue light emitted by digital gadgets such as smartphones and laptops. They may also aid in preventing weary eyes and the relief of headaches caused by eyestrain. In addition, according to some studies, they may make you less likely to develop a more severe type of the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

Beneficial for Lungs

In certain studies, tomatoes are beneficial to persons with asthma and help prevent emphysema, a condition in which the air sacs in your lungs gradually deteriorate. This might be because antioxidants like lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, among others, combat the toxic compounds found in cigarette smoke, which is the primary cause of emphysema. Scientists are working to have a better understanding of these ramifications.

Cleanse Blood

Including more tomatoes in your diet may reduce your risk of having a stroke, which occurs when blood supply to a portion of the brain is cut off. According to studies, they may help reduce inflammation, improve your immune system, cut cholesterol, and protect your blood from clotting. All of these items may aid in the prevention of strokes.

Protects Skin From UV Rays

You're probably aware that wearing a hat and applying sunscreen can help you stay protected from the sun. Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, may aid with this, perhaps in the same way that it benefits tomatoes. Could you not use it on your skin? Working on your cells from the inside out, on the other hand, can help.

Tomatoes Are Commonly Classified as a Vegetable

The widespread culinary applications for tomatoes contribute to much uncertainty regarding whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. However, cooking is as much an art as a science, which allows for greater freedom in how various cuisines are classified. Tomatoes are often used alone or combined with other natural vegetables in savory meals. As a result, they've gained a reputation as a vegetable, despite being officially a fruit according to scientific criteria. The US Supreme Court utilized this categorization approach in 1893 during a legal dispute with a tomato importer who claimed his tomatoes should be classified as fruits to escape the higher vegetable tax.

During this case, the court declared that the tomato would be classed as a vegetable based on its culinary usage rather than its botanical classification as a fruit. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tomatoes aren't the only foods suffering from an identity problem. Although, in reality, botanically classed as fruits, plants are frequently employed as vegetables in culinary practice.

Other fruits that are frequently referred to as vegetables include: Cucumber, Squash, Pea Pods, Peppers, Eggplant, and Okra

Though it is far less frequent, veggies are sometimes used in the same way as fruits in specific culinary situations. For example, even though it is a vegetable, rhubarb is frequently used in sweet dessert-style dishes. This is also evident in other carrot cake and sweet potato pie recipes.

The exact classification of tomatoes doesn't become necessary when it comes down to it. After all, there's a reason why the World Health Organization advises that everyone consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. They're both excellent and required for our bodies to function. So whether you enjoy tomato salad or tomato soup, consuming this fruit/vegetable will benefit you.

Tomatoes Are Considered Vegetables by Chefs

Tomatoes do not have the same sweetness as apples, pineapples, pears, papayas, or bananas. These delectable plant products are fruits from every logical standpoint, whatever you look at it. On the other hand, Tomatoes have a savory flavor and are typically used in savory meals. They are frequently seen in salads and, in some instances, as part of the main course of a meal, but in diverse ways throughout the world.

"Fruits" are rarely served with the main meal. Desserts generally always incorporate them. But you wouldn't cut up some tomatoes and put them in your ice cream, would you?

To summarise the chef's point of view, tomatoes are vegetables since they have a savory flavor. Because most people worldwide link themselves with food rather than biology, it is natural for the tomato to be a vegetable. A journey through our supermarkets, where tomatoes are stocked in the vegetable area, demonstrates this.

Tomatoes, According to Nutritionists, Are a Vegetable

In terms of nutrition, veggies have more micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, whereas fruits contain more macronutrients. Fruit sugars (fructose), carbs, lipids, and proteins are examples of macronutrients that provide energy.

If you ask a nutritionist to define the difference between a fruit and a vegetable in one word, they will respond "fructose." To put things into perspective, a medium, full ripe tomato has roughly 1.7 g of fructose. At the same time, according to Health Fully, a medium-sized apple, approximately 3 inches in diameter, contains approximately 11 g of fructose. Therefore, nutritionists contend that the tomato is a vegetable because of its comparatively low fructose level.


Nonetheless, most individuals do not consider their fruits and vegetables in terms of rigid, definition-specific differences. Instead, in ordinary, nonscientific circumstances, we usually distinguish between a fruit and a vegetable depending on how we eat it and what recipes we put it in, mainly whether it's sweet. Fruits are the edible, generally sweet portions of a plant commonly eaten raw, strained for juice, or used in sweets.

It's both of them. Tomato is technically a fruit (the plant's seed-filled ovary), although it is commonly handled as (and referred to as) a vegetable. Given its salty yet sweet flavor and the fact that it's regularly used in savory meals in the same manner as vegetables, the categorization misunderstanding is reasonable. Even the Supreme Court has struggled to classify the fruit correctly. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a tomato is a vegetable because of how it is utilized in cooking, independent of its botanical classification.

The scientific definition is unambiguous does not indicate that the matter is settled. Perhaps the most incredible way to describe the distinction is the phrase credited to journalist Miles Kington, "Knowledge is recognizing that a tomato is a fruit." "Wisdom does not include putting it in a fruit salad." Numerous cooks have refuted that notion—search for some version of tomato and watermelon salad recipe, and you'll receive millions of hits.

In terms of cuisine, certain absolutely fruit items, such as tomatoes or bean pods, may be referred to as "vegetables" since they are utilized in savory rather than sweet dishes. The term "vegetable" refers to various edible portions of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which is not precisely the plant's fruit from which they are derived. The term 'fruit' refers to a component of a plant that is not a fruit but is used in sweet dishes, such as rhubarb.

Fun Facts on Tomatoes

  • Tomatoes in the diet can help fight against cancer, maintain healthy blood pressure, and lower blood glucose in diabetics.
  • Tomatoes include important carotenoids like lutein. These can protect the eyes from the harmful effects of light.
  • Consume extra tomatoes by incorporating them into wraps or sandwiches, sauces, or salsas. On the other hand, cooked or stewed vegetables might increase the availability of essential nutrients.
  • Tomatoes are among the top ten fruits and vegetables regarding pesticide residue levels. Before eating, wash the tomatoes.
  • Tomatoes aren't always read, believe it or not. Also, they come in various colors, including yellow, pink, purple, black, and even white!
  • Every year, the world's most significant tomato fight takes place in the tiny Spanish town of Buol. La Tomatina is an event in which 40,000 people hurl 150,000 tomatoes at each other.
  • Tomatoes are New Jersey's official state vegetable. Likewise, Ohio's official state beverage is tomato juice.
  • Tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant beneficial to the heart and valuable in treating some malignancies. Tomatoes are also high in vitamins A and C and calcium and potassium.
  • In space, tomato seedlings were cultivated.
  • There are over 10,000 tomato varieties on the globe.
  • According to the Guinness World Record (as of 2013), the heaviest tomato weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and was cultivated in Oklahoma.
  • The first tomatoes in Europe may have been yellow, and they were known as pomo d'Or, which translates as "golden apple."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is a tomato a fruit rather than a vegetable?

Tomatoes are classified as a fruit in botanical terms since they grow from blossoms and contain seeds. Nonetheless, they're frequently used in cooking as a vegetable. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court determined in 1893 that the tomato should be categorized as a vegetable due to its culinary uses.

  • What is the definition of a genuine vegetable?

A vegetable is a part of a plant that can be eaten. Leaves (lettuce), stems (celery), roots (carrot), tubers (potato), bulbs (onion), and flowers are the most common vegetable groups (broccoli).

  • A tomato is a sort of fruit.

Tomatoes are considered vegetables in culinary terms, yet its fruit is botanically classed as a berry. It develops as a natural fruit from the plant's ovary following fertilization, with the flesh forming the pericarp walls. The fruit has locular chambers, hollow areas filled with seeds and moisture.



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