Growiní in the Gold Country by
What the heck is a tomato?
Do you know what a tomato is?
I could have asked if youíve started harvesting your tomatoes. Or I
could have suggested tips on growing great tomatoes (like calcium). Or we could
get into the debate of heirloom versus hybrid versus open pollinated tomatoes.
But if you donít even know what a tomato is, whatís the point?
Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
Technically, or rather botanically, the tomato is a fruit. It is
actually a berry. I know thatís confusing when strawberries and blackberries
are not actually berries at all. Oranges and grapes are berries but we wonít go
Alright, case closed. Itís a fruit, right? Not so fast. A tomato
is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes. In fact the Supreme Court
ruled that the tomato is a vegetable. The Supreme Court!? Arenít they supposed
to be deciding who is going to be president or whether corporations are people
and stuff like that?
In 1887, tomatoes were being shipped into New York from the West
Indies. U.S. tariff law allowed a 10% duty on vegetables but not on fruit. The
Nix family, who were bringing the tomatoes in, were outraged that they were
being taxed since they considered tomatoes a fruit. They wanted their money
back and they sued. By 1893 the Supreme Court had settled the controversy by
declaring tomatoes a vegetable based on its use. Tomatoes are not generally
eaten as a desert and are not as sweet as a peach or an orange. Typically they
are used in a salad or used in a main dish either cooked or as a sauce. I
havenít seen any tomato ice cream yet.
For over a hundred years parents have been telling their children to
ďeat their vegetables.Ē Who knew that technically pizza slathered in cheese and
pepperoni with a light coating of tomato sauce would count as a vegetable?
Heck, even President Reagan, trying to economize on school lunches, wanted to
consider Ketchup as one of the two vegetables kids were supposed to eat. That
didnít go over too well with parents though and the USDA had to scrap that
To make things worse, Ohio passed a law making the tomato the state
fruit. New Jersey designated the tomato as their state vegetable. Arkansas
couldnít make up its mind and made the tomato both the state fruit and the state
If you go into a supermarket, fresh tomatoes are usually with the
fruit but they will call them vegetables. Ask your local produce manager what
they are supposed to be.
Either fruit or vegetable, the tomato is loaded with all kinds of
goodies. Besides Vitamin C, tomatoes have lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that
neutralizes free radicals. They can also lower bad cholesterol and fat in the
And donít worry too much about the classification of tomatoes.
There are other things like zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans that are
botanically also fruit. Just to clear things up, vegetables are things like
carrots, lettuce, cabbage, celery, and broccoli. Itís simple really. Seeds =
fruit. No seeds = vegetable.
One more controversy and I promise to quit. Should you eat tomatoes
raw or cooked? Fresh tomatoes are alkaline, but cooked tomatoes are highly
acidic. So are tomatoes alkaline or acidic?
Iím sorry. I should have stopped. Now you have one more thing to