Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? It’s a question many keep asking. Some call it a vegetable because we often pair it with salt, in main courses or sides during meals. Others, with quite a haughty attitude, quip back that it’s most assuredly a fruit!
Let’s explore the topic and see if we can bring the debate to a peaceful conclusion.
What is a fruit?
Usually, when someone mentions fruits, we think of apples, bananas, oranges… But looking into the actual definition opens a whole new range of possibilities.
“Plant organ originating from the development of an ovary following the fertilization of its ovums, which, when mature, contains seeds”, according to the dictionary.
So there are actually many more “fruits” out there than those few we actually eat!
Many plant fruits are not edible, though they also result from the fertilization of female and male plant organs. For instance, hackberry trees produce hackberries. Pink oleander fruits are shaped like pods which are full of seeds. Once these fruits fall to the ground, the hull breaks down and releases the seeds. These then sprout to produce a new plant.
Tomato is a fruit
In this sense, the tomato is a fruit, since it matches the dictionary’s definition exactly. Indeed, a tomato is a plant organ that arises after a flower has been pollinated. It also contains seeds, nestled inside the fruit within the flesh.
Since it’s usually paired with salt instead of sweet sugar, it increasingly goes by the “fruit vegetable” denomination. This is also the case for zucchini, eggplant and even avocado.
This classification helps set it apart from other types of vegetables, such as “root vegetables” like carrot and radish, or “leaf vegetables” like lettuce and spinach.
How to grow tomato
- Purchase seedlings in nursery pots
- Once any risk of frost has subsided, plant them in a sun-bathed area of your vegetable patch, sheltered from stronger winds.
- Space the seedlings around 30 inches (80 cm) apart.
- As you’re working on the planting and turning the soil over, take the time to add a little compost and fit a stake for each plant right from the start. It’ll guide the vine and hold it up as it grows.
Proceed to water regularly after that without getting any leaves wet. The substrate must stay coil and moist, but not soggy. Apply a layer of mulch to retain soil moisture, you won’t need to water as often. Mulch also protects lower leaves and stems: they won’t be in direct contact with the soil anymore. As a result, there’s less risk of diseases such as downy mildew developing.
- To learn more, read: How to grow tomato
When are tomatoes ready for harvesting?
Tomato harvests generally start in July-August, and will continue until the beginning of October if the climate stays mild.
- Harvest the tomato when it’s color is rich and lush, and when the fruit is soft and gives a bit. Usually this takes 4 to 5 months after the sowing.
- Certain late varieties will produce fruits later than other earlier varieties.
- These can be harvested while still immature, they’ll ripen later on off the plant. A good way to speed the ripening is to store them in a warm spot of the house: heat, more than light, is what hastens the maturing.
A dessert with tomatoes? Yes!
Of course, we’re much more familiar with tomato in starters, sides and main courses, but you can definitely give the following sweet recipes for tomatoes a go! Here are a few sweet-tooth ideas to try out:
- Sweet tomato pie
- Sweet tomato jam mini-pies
- Tomato syrup cake
- Tomato jam
- Tomato fresh fruit salad
- Tomato-strawberry ice cream
- Tomato macaroons
Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are round, others are longish, flattish, ribbed, heart-shaped… Colors range from yellow, red, green, orange, striped like a zebra… What’s difficult is choosing which to try out! Here are three interesting varieties which stand out thanks to their tasty sweetness.
- ‘Cocktail cherry’ tomato: small, round, these bite-sized cherry tomatoes are deliciously tasty.
- ‘Banana legs’: a perfect sphere, harvestable in July, sweet flesh.
- ‘Crimea black’: the color of red wine, round and dense, with a sweet, soft flesh.
- Read on to discover more tomato varieties