We all know that tomatoes are technically a fruit. Typically that fact comes as a surprise to schoolchildren in basic science classes around the world. But after all that, it turns out that though tomatoes are technically a fruit, legally they are actually considered a vegetable.
The debate goes back at least to the nineteenth century, when no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court asked the question: “Are tomatoes fruits or vegetables?”
This question was presented after a fruit importer argued that since tomatoes were fruits and not vegetables (which were subject to a 10 percent import tax) they should be taxed as fruits (which were not taxed).
Though the Supreme Court acknowledged that, botanically speaking, tomatoes are technically fruits — in botany, “fruit” simply refers to the seed-bearing structure of any flowering plant — it was decided that they should be taxed as vegetables based on their most common culinary uses. So it is that, because tomatoes were (and still are) most frequently found in salads, soups, and sandwiches rather than cakes, ice creams, and desserts, they were ultimately, legally, viewed as vegetables, not fruits.
And there you have it: After all those years of people vehemently arguing that tomatoes are fruits, anyone who might have stated the opposite has actually been correct as well.