We all think we know the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, but when it comes down to it, do we really? Take the tomato. Many of us, myself included, were raised calling it a vegetable when it is indeed a fruit. For this we can blame the government, not my parents. In a classic political blunder, tomatoes were ruled a vegetable by the Supreme Court in 1893. Yes, the case of the tomato went all the way to the Supreme Court when an importer argued (correctly) that his tomatoes, like all fruits, should be tax exempt. Vegetables, on the other hand, were subject to a 10 percent tax on foreign vegetables. Obviously he lost, had to pay the tax, and we all grew up thinking the tomato was a vegetable.
The tomato is not the only fruit or vegetable that is commonly misidentified. Botanically speaking, a fruit develops from the flower of a plant and contains seeds. This includes not only tomatoes, but also apples, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkin. And guess what else? Nuts are fruits too! On the other hand, vegetables, are the edible parts of the plant that aren’t fruits, such as leaves, roots, stems, tubers, bulbs, and flowers. Lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onions, asparagus, and broccoli are all examples of vegetables.
That brings up the oft-debated question, where does that leave beans? They are called vegetables but are actually fruits! The botanical reason beans (which includes peas, string beans, snow peas, green beans, etc.) are fruits is because they are the seeds of the fruit pod of the plant. There is still some debate about the true classification of beans but unlike the aforementioned Supreme Court justices, I’m going to stand on the side of science.