Are tomatoes a vegetable or a fruit? This is a question that has been debated for many years. Some people say tomatoes are a vegetable because they are used in so many types of veggie recipes. Other people say they’re a fruit because they are acidic and grow on trees. The answer, however, isn’t as simple as it seems.
Tomatoes fall into the category of what is known as an accessory fruit—this means that it’s not the main seed-bearing part of the plant like we see with things such as oranges and apples. Instead, it’s the part of the plant that grows above ground to attract animals—typically birds—so that they eat the seeds and excrete them elsewhere to propagate the plant species.
Table of Contents
- What is a Fruit?
- Are Tomatoes a Vegetable?
- Are Tomato Plants Shaped Like Other Vegetables?
- The Tricky Part: Solanine
- Final Words
What is a Fruit?
A fruit, by dictionary definition, is the seed-bearing part of a plant that is edible. It’s the part of the plant that grows above-ground—typically the part of the plant that is sweet and holds the seeds that we eat.
Because the fruit is the part of the plant that holds the seeds, it’s also a part of the plant that doesn’t get digested as quickly as the rest of the plant. It has to wait until it is broken down in your gastrointestinal tract. That’s why fruits tend to be higher in fiber and vitamins than vegetables—because they are the part of the plant that has to hold onto nutrients until the seeds are mature enough to be dispersed.
Are Tomatoes a Vegetable?
If we go by the dictionary definition of fruit, then it would seem like tomatoes are a vegetable. To be a vegetable, it must be the edible part of a plant that is eaten as part of a main meal. Tomatoes are eaten as part of many main meals and are also eaten as a snack and in many baked foods.
Because it’s not the seed-bearing part of the plant, it doesn’t need to be digested as quickly as a fruit does, making it a great vegetable choice.
Are Tomato Plants Shaped Like Other Vegetables?
A tomato plant, like most other plants, grows above the ground but doesn’t have a stem like other plants. It has what we call a “stem”, but it’s more like a vine than a stem.
Determinate tomato plants, which are the plants that are typically grown indoors, have a vine-like stem that grows up to around 3 feet. Indeterminate tomato plants, which are typically grown outdoors, have a vine-like stem that grows up to around 6 feet. Because tomato plants don’t have the main stem of a plant, they aren’t shaped like other vegetables.
The Tricky Part: Solanine
Tomatoes produce a chemical called solanine. Solanine is a toxin that is created as a natural defense mechanism against pests. On average, tomatoes produce 14 milligrams of solanine per 100 grams of fresh tomato.
The good news is that this will not hurt you if you eat it; the bad news is that it’s poisonous to dogs. There have been documented cases where dogs have been seriously affected by eating large amounts of tomatoes. The dogs have to be treated with an IV and in some cases have to be put in a coma so that their body can flush the excess solanine out of their system.
To be safe, when growing tomatoes, don’t let your dogs or cats near the tomato plants until they are fully mature and ready to be harvested. This is especially true if you use any kind of chemical for pest control.
Tomatoes are a very versatile fruit that can be used in many different types of dishes. They can be eaten as a snack or used in many different types of recipes, such as salads and pasta dishes. Whether they are eaten raw or cooked, there are many different types of tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes, so there is something for everyone.