Why is the tomato a fruit

Are tomatoes a fruit, fruit or vegetable? We clarify ...


Is the tomato really a vegetable? Or are the red fruits even fruit? We clear up the myth about which red delicacies belong and explain why tomatoes are truly a fruit vegetable.
Whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable is a constant cause of discussion among amateur gardeners and experts alike. However, the experts agree on the following: Tomatoes have characteristics of both fruit and vegetables and therefore belong to the “fruit vegetables” category.

Colloquial misconception

When shopping in the supermarket, a distinction is usually made between vegetables and fruit as follows: Everything that is consumed as a starter or main course can be found on the vegetable shelf. Those fruits that can be prepared as a dessert are summarized as fruit. This myth is also underlined by the origin and history of the word “fruit”. Because the etymology says the following:

  • “Fruit” comes from the words “ob-az” or “obez”
  • these come from Old High German or Middle High German
  • “Ob” means to / to and “az” means food
  • accordingly, they have the meaning of "food" or "addition"
  • Fruit is anything that is consumed in addition to basic food

This is supported by the misconception that fruit is exclusively fruit with a naturally high sugar content. But not all types of fruit are sweet, although the eye is drawn to the extremely sour lemon. The division of fruit and vegetables is colloquially (incorrectly) determined based on their consumption. Accordingly, there is a misconception that vegetables are inedible raw. However, there are vegetables such as cucumbers and peppers that can be eaten raw. Fruit, on the other hand, can be eaten raw as well as processed.

Legal proceedings

The discussion as to whether the tomato is a vegetable or a fruit goes back a long way in history. Because as early as 1893 this question was discussed in a court case at the US Surpreme Court. The basis of the dispute was the commercial law of the time, which set a tax of 10 percent on imported vegetables - but not on fruit. The importer John Nix filed a lawsuit in order to recover the tariffs paid under protest. His reasoning was that the tomatoes are, after all, fruit. The case ended up in court, which was decided on March 10, 1893 as follows:

  • the court ruled unanimously against the plaintiff
  • the tomatoes were defined as a vegetable because of their use
  • because these were mainly consumed as a main course
  • since then, tomatoes have been considered a vegetable under American law

fruits or vegetables

The definition of food says that fruit is a fruit that comes from the germ cells of plants. These plants are usually perennial and therefore produce new flowers and fruits every year. According to the definition of food, vegetables come from annual to biennial plants that have to be sown or planted again and again. However, there are exceptions here too, such as asparagus and artichokes. Because these vegetables grow on perennial plants. Whether it is fruit or fruit can, however, also be defined using the botanical definition:

  • Fruit: Edible parts of plants emerge from a pollinated flower
  • Vegetables: Arises from different parts of plants
  • for example stem, roots, leaf

There is also a further definition, because horticulture has established the following for the classification of fruit and vegetables: Fruits from woody plants such as perennials, trees and shrubs are fruit. Fruits from herbaceous plants, on the other hand, are called vegetables.

Tomato is a fruit vegetable

With regard to the different definitions, there is a discrepancy for tomatoes. On the one hand, the tomatoes grow on annual, herbaceous plants and, according to the definition of food and horticulture, would be considered a vegetable. However, the fruits of the tomato plants arise from the flowers and would therefore be a fruit according to the botanical definition. Accordingly, the tomato is officially something between fruit and vegetables. Fortunately, there is a third category for such cases, namely the so-called fruit vegetables. These plants of this special group are distinguished by the following features:

  • Fruit vegetables is a collective term for special types of vegetables
  • these are also annual plants
  • these form the edible parts of fertilized flowers
  • these include: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, avocado, zucchini

The fruits of the tomatoes are berries

The fruits from the different types of vegetables and fruits can also be divided into their own categories. Within the fruit there are, for example, stone and stone fruits. Vegetables, on the other hand, are divided into leaf, tuber and root vegetables, among other things. The fruits of the tomato plant are called tomatoes and belong to the group of berry fruits. Because in botany a fruit is a berry if the following requirements are met:

  • it is a closing fruit
  • this emerged from an ovary
  • the pericarp is still juicy even when ripe
  • and envelops the seed (s) even when ripe
  • that is, the fruit is closed even when fully ripe

Tips for fast readers

  • Tomatoes are a fruit vegetable
  • this is a collective term for vegetables
  • have properties of fruits and vegetables
  • Tomatoes make fruits from fertilized flowers
  • however, these grow on annual plants
  • The fruits of the tomatoes are berries
  • more precisely closing fruits
  • however, there are different definitions
  • botanical definition: formation of the edible parts of the plant
  • Food definition: perennial or annual plants
  • Horticulture: woody or herbaceous plants