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We hold these vegetables to be self-evident
November 17, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Tomato: fruit or vegetable? In 1893, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Nix v. Hedden that the tomato is legally a vegetable and not a fruit, botanical definitions be damned. In 2001, the European Union disagreed, saying that "tomatoes, the edible parts of rhubarb stalks, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and water-melons are considered to be fruit".

Arkansas punted on the decision, in 1987 naming the tomato its official fruit and vegetable.

In 2005, New Jersey upheld SCOTUS precedent and named the tomato its state vegetable.

In 2009, Ohio stood firm with botanical taxonomy and named the tomato its official fruit.

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture has proposed new school lunch standards (PDF warning) relating not tomatoes proper, but to tomato paste:
This proposal would specifically change the current practice of crediting tomato paste and puree. Currently tomato paste and puree are credited as a calculated volume based on their whole-food equivalency using the percent natural tomato soluble solids in paste and puree, while other fruit paste and purees (such as blackberries puree) are credited based on actual volume as served. Under this proposal, schools would credit tomato paste and puree based on actual volume as served. Schools would not be allowed to credit a volume of fruit or vegetables that is more than the actual serving size.
The US Congress this week is preparing to reject that proposal.

For now, according to US law, not only is the tomato legally a vegetable, two tablespoons of tomato paste is too.
posted by davidjmcgee (91 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Carrots and sweet potatoes? What?
posted by cthuljew at 7:53 AM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Why is watermelons hyphenated? Are there other water-melons besides watermelons?
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2011


I am the Walrus, I can't explain except to note that it's consistently written water-melons in the linked PDF; perhaps it's a British vs American English thing?
posted by jepler at 7:56 AM on November 17, 2011


Hey, wait a minute! Yeah! Cucumbers! Why is there all this quibbling about tomatoes and we never get to quibble about cucumbers?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:57 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just fucking feed the kids some real fucking food already.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:57 AM on November 17, 2011 [44 favorites]


I guess "cucumber paste" would be too depressing even for school lunch?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:59 AM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fruit or vegetable, it still looks disgusting when you slice it open. And let's not even start on okra.
posted by PapaLobo at 8:00 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, there's your problem right there:
This time around, food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:00 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I will incorporate by reference my previous argument that tomatoes are a vegetable.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just fucking feed the kids some real fucking food already.

Careful! The last time a group gave school kids free breakfast, they were called communist outlaws bent on overthrowing the U.S. government
posted by DreamerFi at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I guess "cucumber paste" would be too depressing even for school lunch?

Only if you try to eat it rather than wearing it.
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


THE DREAD TOMATO ADDICTION

Mark Clifton


Ninety-two point four per cent of juvenile delinquents have eaten tomatoes.

Eighty-seven point one per cent of the adult criminals in penitentiaries throughout the United States have eaten tomatoes.

Informers reliably inform that of all known American Communists ninety-two point three per cent have eaten tomatoes.

Eighty-four per cent of all people killed in automobile accidents during the year 1954 had eaten tomatoes.

Those who object to singling out specific groups for statistical proofs require measurements within in the total. Of those people born before the year 1800, regardless of race, color, creed or caste, and known to have eaten tomatoes, there has been one hundred per cent mortality!

In spite of their dread addiction, a few tomato eaters born between 1800 and 1850 still manage to survive, but the clinical picture is poor-their bones are brittle, their movements feeble, their skin seamed and wrinkled, their eyesight failing, hair falling, and frequently they have lost all their teeth.

Those born between 1850 and 1900 number somewhat more survivors, but the overt signs of the addiction's dread effects differ not in kind but only in degree of deterioration. Prognostication is not hopeful.

Exhaustive experiment shows that when tomatoes are withheld from an addict, invariably his cravings will cause him to turn to substitutes-such as oranges, or steak and potatoes. If both tomatoes and all substitutes are persistently withheld-death invariably results within a short time!

The skeptic of apocryphal statistics, or the stubborn nonconformist who will not accept the clearly proved conclusions of others may conduct his own experiment.

Obtain two dozen tomatoes-they may actually be purchased within a block of some high schools, or discovered growing in a respected neighbor's back yard!-crush them to a pulp in exactly the state they would have if introduced into the stomach, pour the vile juice into a bowl, and place a goldfish therein. Within minutes the goldfish will be dead!

Those who argue that what affects a goldfish might not apply to a human being may, at their own choice, wish to conduct a direct experiment by fully immersing a live human head* into the mixture for a full five minutes.

* It is suggested that best results will be obtained by using an experimental subject who is thoroughly familiar with and frequently uses the logical methods demonstrated herein, such as:

(a) The average politician. Extremely unavailable to the average citizen except during the short open season before election.

(b) The advertising copywriter. Extremely wary and hard to catch due to his experience with many lawsuits for fraudulent claims.

(c) The dedicated moralist. Extremely plentiful in supply, and the experimenter might even obtain a bounty on each from a grateful community.

posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


You say tomatoe, I say tomawtoe, Congress says Pizza is a vegetable.
posted by Fizz at 8:05 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Careful! The last time a group gave school kids free breakfast, they were called communist outlaws bent on overthrowing the U.S. government

You realize we do give plenty of kids free breakfast, right? The school my wife works in gives it to every student (it's an inner city school) and even serves it in the classroom, in a (mostly unsuccessful effort) to make sure the kids don't eat Pringles and leftover Halloween candy for breakfast. It's not great food, it's usually cereal, but they do get food and it's better than "sausage biscuits and cheese toast" routine that dominated my school breakfasts.

And let's not even start on okra.

Damn it, now I want fried okra, but it's hard to find here in Yankee-land.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The EU link is a clue to the EU decision to class those particular things as fruits. The directice concerned the sale and marketing of jams, and to qualify as jams, the natural products that are their main ingredient had to be fruits. Because some items that might typically be classed as vegetables are used for jams in some EU Member States (for example carrot jam in Portugal - apparently), they were reclassed as fruits for legal purposes.
posted by biffa at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only card I remember from Illuminati: New World Order is "Ketchup Is A Vegetable". In fact, that that card existed is pretty much the only thing at all that still is in my brain regarding that game.
posted by Plutor at 8:09 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nothing about Ronald Reagan saying ketchup is a vegetable?
posted by John Cohen at 8:10 AM on November 17, 2011


Oh, Plutor beat me to it.
posted by John Cohen at 8:10 AM on November 17, 2011


The purpose of the law is not to determine what to name the foods kids are eating. The purpose is to feed them something healthy. Why not ask, like, an actual scientist if feeding kids tomato paste is equivalent to feed them tomatoes? Does cooking destroy vitamins? Does removing the skins and mashing the insides destroy the value as roughage? Etc.

Oops, there I go again, inserting rational questions into a corporate-funded legislative campaign!
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate has it. The tomato is botanically a fruit, but culinarily a vegetable. The Supreme Court decision, since it involved tariffs, used the latter definition by preference (since tomatoes as taxable produce are more like, say, onions than they are like apples). There is no "wacky" contradiction here.

Redefining what counts as food to benefit companies at the expense of school kids, on the other hand, is a glaring shame.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:19 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


O.K. When they adapt all the above....foods......into Life-Savers and Starburst, THEN I'll call them fruits! ;)
posted by TDavis at 8:19 AM on November 17, 2011


What about purple stuff? Purple is a fruit.
posted by fishmasta at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Mexico, you can get snack food that's basically tomato-flavored pixy stix. I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone had tried tomato starburst there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2011


If it's a vegetable, then gimme pizza!
posted by benzenedream at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2011


But I think we can all agree on Karen Ann Quinlan, right?

too soon? or too dated?
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:33 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Cooked tomato-based products (e.g. pasta and sauces pizza sauces) are pretty healthy, as the lycopene they contain is more easily absorbed by the body. Plus of course, any garlic that happens to be involved is a good thing.

Sandwiching the tomato paste between industrial cheese substitute and industrial bread substitute probably isn't the best means of delivery, though.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to Chef Boyardee, their ravioli ARE vegetables, damn it.
posted by stormpooper at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2011


For me, pizza is lunch, while a cheeseburger (same ingredients minus the red sauce) needs a side vegetable, and sorry Reagan, neither ketchup nor relish count.

So I'm OK with this, though I don't have kids in school.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2011


Carrots and sweet potatoes? What?

Fruit types ... the term you are reaching for without (probably) knowing is Schizocarp.

You know, the more and more I look into scientific vs. culinary classifications, the more and more confusing it gets.

* What are nuts? Are they fruits? ... Are almonds nuts? No, drupes ... which are botanically fruits. Brazil Nuts? Seed. Pistachios? Seed. Cashews? Seed. Pine nut? (I feel like quoting Harlan Pepper here ...) Seed. Peanuts are legumes. ... which are also botanically fruits?

* What are potatoes? Tubers, right? So why are tuberous beets considered vegetables, but potatoes are not? Except when they are.

* And then sweet potatoes, which are neither sweet nor potatoes (and which are often called yams which they really aren't)

* Corn/maize: fruit, vegetable, or grain? All 3? Is this like a quantum theory of food classification?

* Is everything (non-meat) we eat technically a fruit? Are we all fruitarian?

It seems like from what we're learning about nutrition, past the simple food types and vitamins/minerals, we need to start over from scratch. As far as eating healthy goes, the move from the pyramid to the plate was a good move, imo, but I think there's more of shift going on scientifically.

I mean the fact that school cafeterias likely consider corn and broccoli both to be "vegetables" kinda boggles.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


In 1976, orme rejected his parents' proposal and officially named carrots an abomination.

This was later repealed in 1988, following the discovery of hummus.
posted by orme at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg?
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:59 AM on November 17, 2011


Congress says Pizza is a vegetable.

I'm waiting for the USDA to declare a Snickers bar a protein and serve them as a main dish under the school lunch program.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:59 AM on November 17, 2011


I munch on my Freedom Fries assured that Congress will always be alert to protect me against misnamed plant matter while they actively stuff the country down the toilet.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


With almonds, though, you don't eat the whole drupe. You open up the drupe and eat the seed inside.

(If you take a peach pit and hit it with a hammer, you'll find two little almond-shaped things inside. They're almond-flavored, too, although they can contain worrisome levels of cyanide so we don't normally eat them. But the sweet, non-cyanide-laden almonds that we do eat are biologically homologous to them.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man. So wait. This is proof that we actually do in fact have a long and storied history wherein we lie to ourselves about the properties of tomatoes because it's fiscally convenient. Weird.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tomatoes will always be a vegetable in my mind because of the way that they taste: very vegetabley.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'll give you my pizza when you take it from my cold, dead hands.
posted by mazola at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2011


I'm waiting for the USDA to declare a Snickers bar a protein and serve them as a main dish under the school lunch program.

To be fair, in this instance, the USDA wanted more strict guidelines about how much tomato paste was considered a vegetable serving. Congress rejected it due to agribusiness industry lobbying.
posted by formless at 9:03 AM on November 17, 2011


It's only fruit if it's derived from a flower. Also, beets aren't tubers, I believe they are hypertrophied hypocotyl.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 9:04 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate that this makes the teabaggers sound right about the evils of government.
posted by theredpen at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm, the fruit of the carrot plant is a schizocarp. Carrots are the taproot of the plant, not the fruit.
posted by squarehead at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rhubarb is a fruit? Am I thinking of the right thing? Clearly, anything with seeds is a fruit, but rhubarb is just a purple celery looking thing. Also, sweet potatoes are clearly tubers.
posted by Gilbert at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2011


I do love me a dehiscent mericarp for lunch.
posted by binturong at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rhubarb is clearly not actually a fruit, although it is usually used in fruit-like circumstances (pie, cobbler, etc).
posted by maryr at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2011


Yep that's the problem here, "fruit" is a scientific term to describe the seed-containing ovaries of a flowering plant, whereas "vegetable" is just a culinary and cultural term.

So a tomato can either be a fruit and a vegetable, or a fruit and a fruit.

Glad I could clear that up.
posted by Kabanos at 9:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


usually used in fruit-like circumstances

This is going on my business card.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I say tomato, you say tometo, I say potato, you say poteto.
posted by elpapacito at 9:23 AM on November 17, 2011


Related video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twF4Mt-q5jw
posted by elpapacito at 9:25 AM on November 17, 2011


When I was studying the kingdoms of life in school, my father informed me that all the stuff I was being taught about monera and protista was bunk, and that the entire world could be divided into animal, vegetable, or mineral.

Like his rejection of plate tectonics, this system might not be grounded in "science," but it does make these conversations a lot easier. Does it move? If no, it is not an animal. Can you eat it? It's is a vegetable unless it is salt.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


JAMIE OLIVER/MICHAEL POLLAN 2012
posted by jbickers at 9:32 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regardless, I'm still calling my caesar a salad.
posted by Kabanos at 9:35 AM on November 17, 2011


school cafeterias likely consider corn and broccoli both to be "vegetables" kinda boggles.

They need to remember the Chex Test: if you can make Chex out of it, it's a grain, not a vegetable.
posted by straight at 9:35 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can you eat it? It's is a vegetable unless it is salt.

Ha! Salt is the little itching grain in the smooth machinery of this classification scheme!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:35 AM on November 17, 2011


The only card I remember from Illuminati: New World Order is "Ketchup Is A Vegetable".

Harmonica Virgins, I Lied, and Sucked Dry and Cast Aside are the other three I remember.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:36 AM on November 17, 2011


I reiterate my demand to have the NSA reveal its secret pizza tree to the American public
posted by clockzero at 9:37 AM on November 17, 2011


This gives me an idea. You know what would be seriously cool? A website that would be like Rotten Tomatoes but for Supreme Court decisions. You could read a bunch of different quotes from legal scholars and other commentators regarding the decisions.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:41 AM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


They need to remember the Chex Test: if you can make Chex out of it, it's a grain, not a vegetable.

I've made bread out of Froot Loops*, so I bet you could make Chex out of them too, and that's not grain at all; it's genuine Froot.

*It tasted like mediocre cornbread and looked like someone vomitted up Funfetti Cake
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:41 AM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate has it. The tomato is botanically a fruit, but culinarily a vegetable.

I can see how you'd think this if all you've ever had are canned or supermarket tomatoes. If you've had actual fresh tomatoes you know that tomatoes are sweet. Sometimes really sweet. They taste like a fruit, they look like a fruit, and they have seeds and are fleshy (which is really the only non-made-up criteria). I don't understand what's so hard about this.
posted by cmoj at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


New rule: the very best fresh tomatoes, the kind you can bite into and eat like an apple, are a fruit. The hard, watery, tasteless tomatoes you get at the grocery store out-of-season (and really need to be cooked to be edible) are a vegetable.
posted by miyabo at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Surely these requirements would be far less ambiguous if they simply required schools to serve lunches that meet certain RDAs for fat, sugars, proteins and vitamins, and - more importantly - to not exceed certain numbers? Or are these fruit and vegetable requirements something on top of existing RDA requirements?
posted by rh at 9:53 AM on November 17, 2011


It seems like the important thing is that it contains nutritious components, however you want to label it. If it's high in sugar and has no fiber (as in ketchup), it's candy, not food.
posted by mullingitover at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2011


The tomato is botanically a fruit, but culinarily a vegetable.

Exactly the words I was going to use.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:59 AM on November 17, 2011


Corn is a fruit! Syrup comes from a bush!

Ham and mayonnaise! Ham and mayonnaise!
posted by dirigibleman at 10:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


people! we can not risk collapsing the fruit-vegetable wave form!
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


During my last year of high school I worked at a grocery store across the road from a retirement home. Once a week or so this old woman would come into the store, go looking for me (I was told that she would just leave on days I wasn't working) and when she found me screech "WHY ARE THE CANNED TOMATOES IN THE VEGETABLE ISLE YOUNG MAN THEY ARE A FRUIT!" It didn't matter how many times I told her she'd have to ask the manager...
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can see how you'd think this if all you've ever had are canned or supermarket tomatoes. If you've had actual fresh tomatoes you know that tomatoes are sweet. Sometimes really sweet. They taste like a fruit, they look like a fruit, and they have seeds and are fleshy (which is really the only non-made-up criteria). I don't understand what's so hard about this.

The vast majority of tomatoes are cooked into savory dishes. That makes them vegetables as far as cuisine is concerned, which makes them vegetables for taxation and other legal purposes. That there are other classification schemes which are useful and "correct" according to their own standards is irrelevant to the SCOTUS decision.

And I usually benefit from my coworkers' gardens. One grows tiny zebra tomatoes that are pretty much just like candy. This doesn't really change how tomatoes are used on a cultural scale, though.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:23 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can see how you'd think this if all you've ever had are canned or supermarket tomatoes. If you've had actual fresh tomatoes you know that tomatoes are sweet. Sometimes really sweet.

I've had tomatoes like that, and I stand by my claim that tomatoes are culinarily a vegetable. The distinction I am drawing is not merely a sweet/unsweet one; as GenjiandProust notes, tomatoes, no matter how sweet, are more commonly used in savory dishes than in sweet ones. If I were simply drawing a sweet/unsweet distinction, there are several other vegetables, such as Vidalia onions, which are also sweet and would have to be "fruit" under such a classification scheme.

If you insist on understanding the distinction in terms of the item in itself, rather than how it's used, I would note that tomatoes are not only sweet, but have sour and umami flavors as well, and it's the umami that makes it a culinary vegetable. But really, that's secondary to my main point—it's just an explanation of why tomatoes tend to be used in savory dishes rather than sweet ones, even though tomatoes themselves are sweet.

If you were to somehow breed or genetically engineer a tomato which was entirely lacking in umami flavor, that might be a fruit, but I suspect it would be a rather disgusting one that few people would want to eat.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:36 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of tomatoes are cooked into savory dishes.

I don't think that's true. Most are cooked into what are not considered to be desserts, but tomato sauce (which I assume is what's being referred to) is almost always sweet, and more so if it's cooked down like ketchup. Try some with your taste buds instead of your SCOTUS.

In other applications, like when you get that one piece of tomato in a stir fry, is to add only a little sweetness and acidity. What vegetables get stewed like tomatoes? Peaches, pears, squash. I can't think of any undisputed veggies. It tastes like a fruit, looks like a fruit, conforms to the definition of a fruit, and is cooked like a fruit. It's a fruit, no matter what lobbyists want.
posted by cmoj at 10:37 AM on November 17, 2011


Does it move? If no, it is not an animal. Can you eat it? It's is a vegetable unless it is salt.

I love this approach, but then what about ground beef ... Vegetable?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on November 17, 2011


When I was a child during the depression, my mother would make a dish from canned tomatoes, stale bread, a little sugar and butter baked in a deep pie dish. We loved it. She thought we were eating a vegetable and we thought we were eating pie!
posted by Anitanola at 11:05 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think that's true. Most are cooked into what are not considered to be desserts, but tomato sauce (which I assume is what's being referred to) is almost always sweet, and more so if it's cooked down like ketchup. Try some with your taste buds instead of your SCOTUS.

Huh. Any ketchup worth its sauce is going to have strong vinegar overtones as well as sweetness, acidity, and umami from the tomato and a variety of savory notes from the herbs and aromatics used. Most other tomato sauces (and soups, for that matter, which is what I have been cooking lately) play on the sweet tones of tomato but don't ignore the other elements of its flavor profile. Tomato's most common pairing is with garlic and onion, two vegetable generally absent from the dessert list....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2011


Vegetables do not exist.

There are fruits, tubers, rhizomes, nuts, etc.

But there is no such thing as a vegetable.

(this makes me annoying to friends and family)
posted by Zerowensboring at 11:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vegetables do not exist.
Linnaeus would take issue with that.

Also, if tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable, then V8's got some splaining to do.
posted by juv3nal at 11:22 AM on November 17, 2011


I guess it could be renamed V7F1.

what about ground beef ... Vegetable?

Ground beef is a kind of salt, like oysters and very fat turkeys.
posted by hattifattener at 12:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


While I'm a firm believer that tomatoes are Devil's Fruit (that's why they are red!) and therefore not to be trusted until it they have the evil beaten out of them and they are rendered into a harmless paste, I feel that we are doing kids a huge disservice by playing naming games like this.

How can we expect them to learn how to properly feed themselves when we can't even be honest about what is good for them and what is good for the fast food lobby?

Seriously, "Pizza is a vegetable" is a funny Onion headline, not a reality we want our kids to believe.
posted by quin at 12:06 PM on November 17, 2011


Tomatos can't be vegetables. Attack of the Killer Tomatos would make no sense if they were. Who'd ever believe in killer vegetables?
posted by rich at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2011


Heh.. I dropped my 'e's on tomatoes. Call me Dan.
posted by rich at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
This is insane. I always thought rhubarb was a vegetable (I've never had or seen an actual rhubarb [until looking it up on Wikipedia just now]), which is why I was so hesitant to try strawberry rhubarb pie. Had my country told me otherwise, I would have tried the pie a lot sooner. It didn't help that "rhubarb" is a very unappetizing name. Have you guys ever had strawberry rhubarb pie? It's among the greatest of pies. You'll realize that pies such as apple aren't all that great upon tasting the ingenious combination of strawberry and rhubarb.
posted by Redfield at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Try some with your taste buds instead of your SCOTUS.

Well, I wasn't trying to address the whole what-should-it-be-legally question; I was only addressing whether the tomato is properly regarded as a fruit or a vegetable culinarily. Whether tomato paste should be considered a fruit, a vegetable, or neither for legal purposes of fulfilling school lunch requirements would have to consider what our goals are in requiring X amount of fruit and Y amount of vegetables in school lunches. Presumably, fruits and vegetables tend to have various nutritional profiles we would like to meet, so for the purpose of legal consideration of school lunches, the question to be answered is whether tomato paste is, nutritionally, sufficiently like a vegetable or sufficiently like a fruit to count as one of those (and the answer might well be "no, neither.") But that's not a question which can be answered by my "how is it used culinarily" analysis, nor can it be answered by an "is it sweet" analysis. (An illustrative example: even though the avocado is botanically a fruit, it might be unwise to consider it a fruit for legal/nutritional purposes since it is unusually high in fat for a fruit and thus may not meet the nutritional profile we are attempting to meet with a "fruit" requirement.)

tomato sauce (which I assume is what's being referred to) is almost always sweet

I think perhaps there's some confusion here in that "sweet" has more than one meaning. There's sweet as one of five flavors (along with salty, sour, bitter, and umami), and then there's sweet as one of two types of dishes (contrasted with savory). And a savory dish can sometimes have sweet-as-a-flavor. It's not as simple as sweet-as-a-dish includes everything that has sweet-as-a-flavor, and savory-as-a-dish includes everything that lacks sweet-as-a-flavor. I might posit that sweet-as-a-dish requires sweet-as-a-flavor (but less than you might think—consider some very dark chocolates which are only minimally sweet), but the reverse is not true.

So yes, tomato sauce is sweet-as-a-flavor, but it's not sweet-as-a-dish; it's still a savory dish. And I'm not sure I can fully articulate the difference between sweet and savory dishes, but I don't doubt that it exists. Witness last week's episode of The Next Iron Chef, in which each of the eight remaining contestants were assigned a different movie theater concession as a theme ingredient—with seven of the eight ingredients being sweet (in fact, seven types of candy). Further, each chef was required to create two dishes using their ingredient, one sweet and one savory. Which they did: even though the savory dishes of those seven undoubtedly incorporated sweet-as-a-flavor, that did not make them sweet-as-a-dish. And the chefs seemed clear on what was meant by "one sweet dish and one savory dish," so it's not a meaningless distinction.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


We hold these vegetables to be self-evident

Derailing for compliment here. The title of this post is genius. There's totally an opportunity to say "we hold these fruits to be self-evident" which is a nice little pun. "Fruit" is clearly the appropriate choice here.

So choosing to say "vegetable" where "fruit" would be the appropriate choice is absolutely brilliant, given the topic at hand. Well done, sir.
posted by gauche at 12:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


The debate raises concern at the headquarters of the National Vegetable Party.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 1:58 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this approach, but then what about ground beef ... Vegetable?

sure...it's made out of grass...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:24 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


rhubarb isn't a fruit

it's a fucking weed. you're eating fucking weeds
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:49 PM on November 17, 2011


I will solve this problem by mandating that all congress members must only eat school lunches while they are in session.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 3:30 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Arkansas is close. It's a Fruitable.
posted by symbioid at 5:05 PM on November 17, 2011


each chef was required to create two dishes using their ingredient, one sweet and one savory

I'm very curious now as to what those dishes were like. How do you make something savory (and still edible) out of Mike and Ikes?
posted by chela at 5:51 PM on November 17, 2011


rhubarb isn't a fruit

it's a fucking weed. you're eating fucking weeds
Tomato, tomahto.
posted by Redfield at 1:25 AM on November 18, 2011


I'm very curious now as to what those dishes were like. How do you make something savory (and still edible) out of Mike and Ikes?

None of them were quite as bizarre as Mike and Ikes...several were chocolate somethings or others (malted milk balls, chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate caramels, etc.), and chocolate is not unknown in savory dishes. Then there were a couple of fruit-type candies (gummi bears, some kind of sour fruit candy) so they could work off the fruit flavors of those. In fact, one of the most-criticized savory dishes was the one from the chef with the one non-sweet ingredient (popcorn), although it sounded like the problem was more in the texture than the taste—he ground it in a food processor and used it to bread shrimp ("popcorn shrimp" he explained, which I thought was at least a great culinary pun) but apparently it didn't turn out that well.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:41 AM on November 18, 2011


And now that I look it up I see that Mike and Ikes is a fruit-flavored candy, so in fact not that different from some of the candies that were used. And I also remember now that one of the chefs had a hot-cinnamon Hot Tamales-type candy to use too, which may have been the most unusual. Anyway, I was confusing Good and Plenty with Mike and Ike's.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:41 AM on November 18, 2011


Tomato: fruit or vegetable?

Barry Estabrook's recent book Tomatoland says that most of them are an industrial food disaster. Sprayed with dozens of poisons. And picked in the U.S. by slaves.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:31 PM on November 18, 2011


Oh I love to argue this with my kids. My stance is that savory fruits are called vegetables by the grocer, and are called, in general, fruit by a botanist, so everyone is right. I do not consider seeds as fruit, because the fruit is actually the part around the seeds. Legumes are a class of seed, as are nuts. The seed of any edible grassy plant, is another class of seeds (grain).

In any case, eating any edible plants is better than eating things that come in a package.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 8:12 PM on December 3, 2011


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