You Say Tomato...

The New Jersey state legislature is apparently debating whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Now, I suppose it's better the legislators spend their time that way than in passing some intrusive new law, but the question only arises from confusing two quite different classification schemes. It is true that, botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit. But so are squash, eggplants, peppers, okra, and many other items served as vegetables. On the other hand, "vegetable" has no meaning at all in botany -- the vegetables that aren't fruits are leaves, roots, flowers, or stems. "Vegetable" is a culinary term, and in cooking, tomatoes are a vegetable. It's like arguing over the propriety of a fish store selling clams. Clams are zoologically quite distinct from fish, but that has nothing to do with the fact that they go quite nicely in a fish soup.


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