Fruit or Vegetable?

Commonly, we think of “fruit” as sweet – apples, bananas, strawberries. But botanically speaking, “fruit” includes many foods that we think of as vegetables (due largely to taste and culinary usage) – cucumbers, bell peppers, wheat grains, avocados – and the majestic tomato.

The fruit vs. vegetable argument even led to legal dispute in the U.S., when in 1887 U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables, but not fruit. In 1893 the Supreme Court settled the dispute by declaring the tomato a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use. The tomato, then is considered a “culinary vegetable” in the U.S.

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family, along with other vegetables like peppers and eggplant. Nightshades have gotten a bad rap lately in the nutrition/wellness world (thanks to celebs like Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen) because they are thought to cause inflammation and potentially lead to joint pain, digestive problems, and sleep disturbances. Like their classification and pronunciation (think British English vs. American English), the potential health risks associated with tomatoes are up for debate.

A variety of tomato called Flavr Savr was the first ever genetically modified food to be commercially available; it was engineered to have a longer shelf life. In the relatively short history of large scale ag, one of the priorities has always been increasing the shelf life of products so they can travel longer and farther to satisfy demand for something like a tomato in the middle of winter in New York. Culturally, we have grown so accustomed to finding these bright and shiny fruits (albeit their dull, pale, tasteless counterparts) available in supermarkets year round that we have perhaps lost touch with the joy that comes from taking a bite out of a fresh, ripe tomato as if it were an apple, or popping a sweet cherry tomato between our teeth.

Look for Free Spirit Farm’s cherry tomatoes in our quiche, or ask us for a fresh sample. Also be sure to catch a glimpse of co-owner Karen’s tattoo – an homage to her favorite fruit/vegetable.