Skip to main content


Showing posts with the label tomato

American Tomatoes are Legally Vegetables

An oft-repeated expression you hear in America goes, “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is knowing not to put on in a fruit salad.”  This is true in America and many other countries: however a tomato might be classified scientifically, it’s treated as a vegetable in cuisine.  Since a tomato is developed in the ovary of the flower of the tomato plant, it’s technically a fruit.  Fruits contain the seeds of the plant, which is why apples and oranges are fruits, like cherries, blueberries and grapes, and even beans and some nuts.  Since more people tend to engage in cooking and not botany, referring to a tomato as a fruit will only upset the most dedicated pedant. There was a time when few people (besides botanists) gave this matter much thought.  Due to its savory flavor, tomatoes were referred to throughout the United States as vegetables.  The tomato was native to Central America and northwestern South America, and following a long period of time when th

Tomato: The Fruit with the Poisoned History

Like a lot of fruits, vegetables and livestock, the modern tomato looks very little like it did before agriculture.  Before it was first cultivated, wild tomatoes were much smaller, probably the size of cherries, and were most likely yellow.  No one knows for sure because in their native Central America and western South America, no one bothered to keep records of the gradual agricultural development of the tomato. By the time the tomato made its way north to the Aztec Empire, it started to take on the round, red appearance it has today.  The word tomato comes from tomatl ([to ˌmatɬ], or “toh MATS”), originating from Nahuatl, the main language of the Aztecs.  It means “fat water” or “fat thing”.  The Aztecs developed the fruit further, coming up with something they called xitomatl ([ˌʃit o ˈmatɬ], or “SHEET oh MAHTS”).   Xitomatl translates roughly as “fat thing with navel”.  When the Spanish arrived in the New World, this is the version of the tomato that they encountered.