Are Tomatoes Fruits Or Vegetables?: The Supreme's Court 1893 Decision

By | May 10, 2019

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A woman picks a tomato at a market. Source: (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

The tomato… is it a fruit or a vegetable? Ask a group of botanists and they will tell you that the tomato is a fruit, but ask many chefs and they will tell you that it is a vegetable. So, who is right? Are tomatoes fruits or are they vegetables? Well, it's kind of both, but legally-speaking, it's a little more complicated than that. It turns out we can finally put this debate to rest. The Supreme Court ruled on the classification of the tomato back in 1893 in an obscure, yet monumental court case: Nix v. Hedden. The verdict? Well, let’s find out.

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Tomatoes are vegetables, right? Source: (

The Tomato as a Vegetable

Those in favor of labeling tomatoes as vegetables point to the culinary uses of the tomato as their key piece of evidence. Vegetables, in a culinary definition, are less sweet than fruits. They are generally not used to make desserts, but are, instead, used to make main courses, salads, side dishes, and soups. Botanists, however, are less concerned with the taste of the product than they are with the part of the plant from which the product came. Vegetables are defined as edible plant parts. These can include roots and tubers (like carrots and potatoes), leaves (as in lettuce), flowers (like broccoli and artichokes), stalks (like celery), and seed pods (as in beans and peas).