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Why Are Tomatoes A Fruit?

Why Are Tomatoes A Fruit?

A delicious rainbow of fruits and vegetables are sitting at your local farmer’s market, but there’s more going on behind the scenes than you might expect. Those tomatoes sitting red and ripe next to the broccoli and celery are actually deep undercover. That’s because scientifically speaking tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables! Let’s bite into the explanation from National Geographic.

WHAT IS A FRUIT?

When we’re talking about what a fruit is and what a vegetable is, we have to look at the scientific definition. In the science of plants, fruits grow from the fertilized ovary of a flower. One reason plants make fruit is so they can disperse their seeds. When a person or animal eats fruit, those seeds are taken away and have a chance to get planted. 

So an easy way to remember if something is a fruit or not is to check if it has seeds. When you take a bite into a juicy tomato, all those seeds inside tell you the truth: it’s a fruit!

WHAT IS A VEGETABLE? 

Vegetables are a catch-all category for everything edible a plant produces that isn’t a fruit. They can be leaves, stems, roots or even flowers. We eat all of those plant parts every day: spinach is a leaf, asparagus is a stem, carrots are roots and broccoli is a flower. Unlike fruits, they don’t have seeds, even though some fruits are treated as vegetables in the grocery store and on your plate.

CULINARY VS SCIENTIFIC

The reason some fruits are thought of as vegetables has to do with how we eat them. Generally speaking, we expect fruits to be sweet. Bananas, apples, and strawberries all stay sweet when you bake or cook them, so we consider them fruits through and through. But some fruits are more savory than sweet, so we like to eat them with savory vegetables. That’s why you’ll find tomatoes mixing it up with the lettuce and spinach in your salad.

Fruits used as vegetables:

  • Tomatoes
  • Squash and pumpkins
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers and zucchini
  • Eggplants

The list of vegetables that are used as fruits isn’t as long. One notable case is rhubarb, which is sweet enough to make its way into pies and other tasty desserts.

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on the blog!