Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

Poll your students about this classic question using this tally graph. Botanically speaking, the tomato you eat is a fruit. So is a watermelon, green pepper, eggplant, cucumber, and squash. A "fruit" is any fleshy material covering a seed or seeds. Horticulturally speaking, the tomato is a vegetable plant. The plant is an annual and nonwoody. Most fruits, from a horticulture perspective, are grown on a woody plant (apples, cherries, raspberries, oranges) with the exception of strawberries. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled the tomato was a "vegetable" and therefore subject to import taxes. The suit was brought by a consortium of growers who wanted it declared a vegetable to protect U.S. crop development and prices. Fruit, at that time, was not subjected to import taxes and foreign countries could flood the market with lower priced produce.

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