Yesterday I went to buy some tomatoes for our dinner salad.  Too late!  The yummy large red gems of summer are really all gone.  There are still some large tomatoes there though they are a pale red and not inviting to pick up and contemplate eating.  I settled for the smaller tomatoes in the plastic packaging.  It got me to thinking about tomatoes.  Not a common everyday occurrence as I have other things to juggle around in my mind.

Tomatoes in this area are a huge deal.  The first year we moved here I kept hearing that we HAD to have a Jersey tomato.  We did, straight from a farm stand in Jersey.  Do not know what the big deal is.  It was good.  Others are good as well. 

My mother-in-law was a real tomato person.  She loved the rich ripe red orbs of summer.  She would even have the occasional tomato sandwich.  Sliced tomatoes were part of most suppers in summer at her table.  This is one thing on which we did agree fresh tomatoes are good.

What are tomatoes?  That was the thought from my shopping.  I know the discussion fruit or vegetable so went to investigate for a definitive answer.

Science Bob says:

To really figure out if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. The big question to ask is, DOES IT HAVE SEEDS? If the answer is yes, then technically, (botanically) you have a FRUIT. This, of course, makes your tomato a fruit. It also makes cucumbers, squash, green beans and walnuts all fruits as well. Along with the fruit from a plant or tree, we can often eat the leaves (lettuce,) stems (celery,) roots (carrots,) and flowers (broccoli.) Many of these other parts of the plant are typically referred to as VEGETABLES. Now don’t go looking for tomatoes next to the oranges in your grocery stores; fruits like tomatoes and green beans are usually (alas, incorrectly) referred to as “vegetables” in most grocery stores and cookbooks.

The Oxford English Dictionary says:

The confusion about ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’ arises because of the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless). Blueberries, raspberries, and oranges are true fruits, and so are many kinds of nut. Some plants have a soft part which supports the seeds and is also called a ‘fruit’, though it is not developed from the ovary: the strawberry is an example.

As far as cooking is concerned, some things which are strictly fruits, such as tomatoes or bean pods, may be called ‘vegetables’ because they are used in savoury rather than sweet cooking. The term ‘vegetable’ is more generally used of other edible parts of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which are not strictly the fruit of the plant from which they come. Occasionally the term ‘fruit’ may be used to refer to a part of a plant which is not a fruit, but which is used in sweet cooking: rhubarb, for example.

So, the answer to the question is that a tomato is technically the fruit of the tomato plant, but it’s used as a vegetable in cooking.

Did you understand all of that?  So a tomato is a fruit until you use it in cooking then it becomes a vegetable?  Clever little morsel that red gem!!!  I think I will just call them good and enjoy them when I can each summer.  The home grown ones are not here long!



  1. Totally agree about tomatos. There is nothing like a big, red, WARM tomato no matter how you slice it!! AND don’t forget the tomato soup and tuna sandwiches. 🙂
    Love, Aunt Becky

  2. Sorry, I just could not resist. This is a great recipe for using late season, ripe tomatoes. It is okay to buy those large, pale red tomatoes. Don’t refrigerate them Put them in a paper bag and let them sit a few days on the counter. If you want to hasten the ripening add an unpeeled banana to the bag. Once they are good and ripe, make this recipe. You won’t regret it.

    Tomato Soup Provençal (Page 199 – Home Cooking Parties for 8)

    This tomato soup recipe from Provence is made from both fresh and canned tomatoes and has a surprise ingredient ~ orange juice. You will have and will want leftovers of this soup!

    ¼ cup olive oil
    3 leeks; thoroughly cleaned and then minced
    3 carrots; peeled and minced
    1 medium red onion; chopped
    4 cloves garlic; smashed and minced
    grated zest of 1 orange
    2 tsp dried thyme
    1 tsp fennel seeds
    8 ripe tomatoes; seeded and diced
    2 cans plum tomatoes (28 oz.) undrained
    1-½ quarts chicken stock
    ¾ cup orange juice
    freshly ground pepper
    1 French baguette; sliced
    1 cup julienned basil; for garnish

    Soak leeks in cold water for 5 minutes to clean thoroughly. While the leeks soak, cut, chop and mince vegetables according to directions, above. Then rinse, drain and mince the leeks last.
    Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and add the leeks, carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 15 minutes. Stir several times during this cooking. After 15 minutes, add the orange zest, fennel seeds, dried thyme and cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add all the tomatoes, stock and orange juice and stir to combine. Cover the stockpot and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
    Remove from heat. Purée the soup using a hand food processor (food mill). Work in batches if you must use a standard food processor or blender. Season with the salt and pepper.
    Strain the soup back into the stockpot to remove any chunky material and bring it to a simmer. Hold at low-simmer until ready to serve.
    Heat baguette in oven 5 minutes before serving soup.

    Use medium or large soup bowls. Just before serving, julienne basil and use as a garnish for soup. Serve hot soup with warm baguette and butter.

    (Copyright 2007 John Perides, Home Cooking Parites for 8)

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