Fruits or Vegetable - a Discussion

27 Jul 2013 06.18 am by K. Daniel

In everyday life (well, my life anyway), one often stumbles on the often debated subject, what makes a vegetable and what makes a fruit? Botanically speaking, a fruit is part of a flowering plant which bears seeds, while a vegetable is an edible plant or plant part. Notice how the definitions here focus on structures, well defined as a lot of things in science is.

Of course, there is another definition on the two terms. This definition comes as no surprise, from the kitchen, where fruits are sweet, edible plant parts which can be eaten raw or cooked, while vegetables are pretty much everything else other than the former.

In writing articles which encompass both fruits and vegetables, and when there is a distinction to be made, which one do I go for? Botanical (science-y and let's face it, slightly pretentious) or the more practical general term? As easy as it is to pick the later, as this writer's training is based on science, and this IS an information and educational hub, facts and solid evidence comes first. Go Science!!

Not everyone agrees though. In 1893 a Supreme Court Ruling in the United States ruled that tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable. Guess they are really passionate about their tomatoes huh?

As it turns out this is not some form of blatant disregard for fundamental, scientific knowledge. Neither are they actually that passionate about vegetables or tomatoes. What they are passionate about is business, and of course, profits. The claims was made in part in order to take back paid duties which were higher back then for fruits than it is for vegetables. Yes everyone wants tax cuts.

Reading through the case in all seriousness, it is hard not to have a slight chuckle. For one, the argument and counter argument involved the defendant and plaintiff reading out loud definitions from dictionaries including Webster's dictionary. To support their stance, they read out definitions for potatoes, peas, carrots, squash, peppers, cabbage, and beans amongst others. Let's just hope the jury have had their lunch.

Eventually the Supreme Court Judge ruled in favour of the defendant and the tomato was subsequently known as a vegetable forevermore. Sounds like a good story no?

The Controversy does not end there though. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) regulations had to make some tough decisions when faced with decreased funding. They had to propose programs which were still nutritionally adequate for school children while within the predetermined smaller budget, and ensuring that kids had enough vegetables in their meals. Their solution? Making condiments vegetables. Again, I have no words for this.

Since then this was not fondly known as ''the ketchup is a vegetable controversy''. Realizing the error after a massive amount of backlash from the opposition and general public, the original regulations were withdrawn for further (much needed) consideration. By the end of November of that year, the Administrator for FNS was also promptly fired. Ouch!

Another similar blow out was also seen in a 2011 effort to improve nutritional guidelines by the USDA, which was blocked by congress. The proposal included would involve lower amounts of potatoes permitted, more green vegetables, and ? a cup of tomato paste being classified as a vegetable serving over the original 2 tablespoons.

The blocking of this legislation was also faced with considerable backlash. This meant that nutritional standards for school children would stay the same. Critics noted how 2 tablespoons of tomato paste is the approximate quantity used in pizza, and as such it would count as one serving of vegetable.

I'm not talking about vegetable topped pizzas here. Think of the greasiest, meatiest, cheesiest pizza with a smudge of tomato paste. That's a vegetable. Yes you read that right. And no, don't eat pizza and say you had one serving of vegetable. A fruit perhaps.

So what can I say in conclusion of this matter? Although there is a wide range of topics that I could have covered which probably could be of more interest, this is one thing that I do need to address. As outlined in the above, I will probably still continue with the scientific classification of things, or at least when tomatoes come into play anyway.

Pumpkin, squash, and eggplant, all of these are indeed technically fruit but never consumed as such, while tomatoes can and have been well known to be eaten raw and still taste sweet. Perhaps I am contradicting myself but somehow it makes more sense that way. I'm not going to go all out and call rice, wheat and oats fruits mind you (which they technically are), but with all the ''tomatoes are actually a fruit'' facts being flung around in most ''fun facts about fruits/vegetables'' posts everywhere, I thought it is high time that we put this little tidbit to rest. Tomatoes are fruit. Everything else are fruits disguised as vegetables or grains. Case closed.


Fruits or Vegetable - a Discussion  

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