Is a tomato a fruit? Or a vegetable? Yes. And yes.

I’m not sure why this is the question that just won’t die, but I got it again at a event where I was speaking recently, so I am hereby going to issue the final, official, definitive ruling on the age-old question: Is a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable?

The answer is:…

(Drum roll please)


Fruit. And Vegetable. At the same time.
Fruit. And Vegetable. At the same time.

That’s right, folks. Vegetable and fruit are not mutually exclusive categories! Fruit is a technical, botanical term like leaf and petiole and petal which refers to a specific part of a plant. Vegetable is a cultural term referring to parts of plants that we eat.

In other words: lettuce is a leaf and a vegetable, celery is a petiole and a vegetable, broccoli is a flower bud and a vegetable, and a tomato is a fruit and a vegetable.

The real mystery to me is why this question always comes up around tomatoes and only tomatoes, when there are lots of other vegetable-fruits in the grocery store. Peppers, zucchini, pumpkins, eggplants, and cucumbers are ALL fruit. And vegetables. But somehow no one seems to wonder about them.

Joseph Tychonievich

5 thoughts on “Is a tomato a fruit? Or a vegetable? Yes. And yes.”

  1. I’m always amused when nutritionists try to separate eating vegetables from eating fruit. Many things that we think of as vegetables ARE fruits. Trying to get them to name vegetables that aren’t (botanically) fruit really messes with their minds.

    The nutrition faculty office is next door to mine. Can you tell?

    I’m easily amused.

    1. An orange is absolutely a fruit. but I wouldn’t call it a vegetable. But I suppose that could change. Vegetable isn’t a classification with a strict, scientific definition, rather it is a group defined by culture. In our culture, at least as far as I know, an orange wouldn’t be considered a vegetable. But that could change some day, and it may be some groups or regions WOULD consider it a vegetable.

Leave a Reply