Fruit or Vegetable | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Fruit or Vegetable

Do you think you know the answer to the age-old question, "Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?"

Well, think again, Webster Dictionary lovers; all that is written by Webster does not necessarily hold up in court. In 1893 the debate was escalated all the way to the Supreme Court to get the legal, definitive answer to the question. See, tomatoes were the hot new menu item in the late 19th Century, and to import them from the West Indies as a vegetable, one would have to pay a hefty tax.

So what did one crafty business man do? He brought Webster's Dictionary to trial. Though the dictionary stated that the fruit is "the part of the plant that contains the seeds and the pulpy area surrounding it," the definition didn't prove to the justices that it was a fruit. The court decision on May 10, 1893, stated, "Botanically, tomatoes are considered a fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in common language of people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not like fruits generally, as dessert."

And so, word and tomato lovers, the tomato is legally a vegetable. Got it?

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