Saltbox: Tomatoes are vegetables

Emma Kaber, A&E Editor

9th January, 2023

You might be looking at the page right now, judging me for not knowing the common fact that tomatoes are fruits. I never said that tomatoes aren’t fruits. I said tomatoes are vegetables. If you thought I didn’t know that tomatoes are fruits, you need to do research on logical fallacies. That was an example of false dichotomy. Fruits and vegetables are not mutually exclusive categories, and tomatoes fit into both. So do cucumbers, avocados, and eggplant. The confusion lies in the two definitions of fruit. 

A culinary fruit is a sweet plant, often used in desserts. A botanical fruit is the fleshy part of the plant that surrounds the seed. Most culinary fruits are botanical fruits. Apples, grapes, bananas, and lemons are all examples. However, some plants such as rhubarb are not botanical fruit but are sometimes considered culinary fruit. A vegetable is a plant that is not classified as a culinary fruit. There is no such thing as a vegetable, botanically speaking. Vegetables are a social construct. There are many botanical fruits that are culinary vegetables. Tomatoes are the prime example. Using tomatoes in a dessert would be absolutely abominable. Similarly with cucumber, avocado, eggplant, and zucchini. 

And this isn’t even getting me started on berries. Berries are the absolute worst offender of confusing culinary/botanical distinctions. A culinary berry is a small fruit. A botanical berry is a simple fruit consisting of a three-layered structure and is produced from a single ovary. Strawberries are culinary berries, but are not botanically berries. This is because they are produced from a cluster of ovaries. Avocados, bananas, and even our good friend the tomato are all botanical berries that are snubbed the title of culinary berry. It’s so confusing to have the same word mean almost the same thing depending on context, but that’s the English language for you. It’s not wrong to say that tomatoes are fruit. It is also not wrong to say that tomatoes are vegetables. It IS wrong to say that “tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables” because tomatoes are fruits AND vegetables. But go ahead and keep saying what you want. Be wrong. At the end of the day, vegetables are a social construct.