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Fruit or Vegetable?



Article Published: Aug. 22, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 22, 2012

Some consider tomatoes a fruit, while others insist it is a vegetable.

Since there is more than one way to classify tomatoes, both perspectives are correct.

Botanically, tomatoes are in the same category as avocadoes, eggplant, cucumbers and squash of all kinds. They are the fruit of a flowering plant that consists of the ovary and seeds. Yet, they are all treated as vegetables in the kitchen.

For culinary use, the tomato is considered a vegetable. It is typically used as an ingredient in main courses and in side-dishes for a meal.

An apple pie sounds more appealing than a tomato pie for dessert, since tomatoes have less natural sugar content than sweet fruit.

This naming debate dates way back in history. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits, caused the tomato’s status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable. This was based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, as they are generally served with dinner and not a dessert.

Whatever you want to call them, tomatoes taste great and are extremely nutritious. They are rich in lycopene, which provides the red color and may help prevent heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer. One large tomato provides more than 30 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C and A, with only 33 calories.

This health promoting, tasty recipe is a great way to add fresh tomatoes to your diet. It’s taken from “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, which is a great resource for cooks who want to use seasonal ingredients.


Spicy Tomato Tempeh or Chicken

Brown rice (enough to serve four)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine in medium bowl.
Turn oven onto 375 degrees F.
8 ounces tempeh or chicken, cut into bite-sized cubes

Add to bowl and toss to coat.
Spread on a baking sheet and roast in oven until tempeh or chicken is browned.
Chicken should take 20 minutes, tempeh 30 minutes.
Check after 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

In a deep skillet, sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft, around 10 minutes.

1 1/2 pound tomatoes
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot chilies, or as desired
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Add and cook over medium heat until mixture is bubbling, about 10 minutes.

1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to mixture and stir until thickened. Add tempeh or chicken and serve over brown rice.


Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian and nutritionist and extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email margie_mansure@ncsu.edu or call (828) 264-3061.

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