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Growiní in the Gold Country by Don Urbanus 

What the heck is a tomato?

            Do you know what a tomato is?
            I could have asked if youíve started harvesting your tomatoes.  Or I could have suggested tips on growing great tomatoes (like calcium).  Or we could get into the debate of heirloom versus hybrid versus open pollinated tomatoes.  But if you donít even know what a tomato is, whatís the point?
            Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? 
            Technically, or rather botanically, the tomato is a fruit.  It is actually a berry.  I know thatís confusing when strawberries and blackberries are not actually berries at all.  Oranges and grapes are berries but we wonít go into that.
            Alright, case closed.  Itís a fruit, right?  Not so fast.  A tomato is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes.  In fact the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato is a vegetable.  The Supreme Court!?  Arenít they supposed to be deciding who is going to be president or whether corporations are people and stuff like that?
            In 1887, tomatoes were being shipped into New York from the West Indies.  U.S. tariff law allowed a 10% duty on vegetables but not on fruit.  The Nix family, who were bringing the tomatoes in, were outraged that they were being taxed since they considered tomatoes a fruit.  They wanted their money back and they sued.  By 1893 the Supreme Court had settled the controversy by declaring tomatoes a vegetable based on its use.  Tomatoes are not generally eaten as a desert and are not as sweet as a peach or an orange.  Typically they are used in a salad or used in a main dish either cooked or as a sauce.  I havenít seen any tomato ice cream yet.
            For over a hundred years parents have been telling their children to ďeat their vegetables.Ē  Who knew that technically pizza slathered in cheese and pepperoni with a light coating of tomato sauce would count as a vegetable?  Heck, even President Reagan, trying to economize on school lunches, wanted to consider Ketchup as one of the two vegetables kids were supposed to eat.  That didnít go over too well with parents though and the USDA had to scrap that idea. 
            To make things worse, Ohio passed a law making the tomato the state fruit.  New Jersey designated the tomato as their state vegetable.  Arkansas couldnít make up its mind and made the tomato both the state fruit and the state vegetable. 
            If you go into a supermarket, fresh tomatoes are usually with the fruit but they will call them vegetables.  Ask your local produce manager what they are supposed to be.
            Either fruit or vegetable, the tomato is loaded with all kinds of goodies.  Besides Vitamin C, tomatoes have lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals.  They can also lower bad cholesterol and fat in the bloodstream.
            And donít worry too much about the classification of tomatoes.  There are other things like zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans that are botanically also fruit.  Just to clear things up, vegetables are things like carrots, lettuce, cabbage, celery, and broccoli.  Itís simple really.  Seeds = fruit.  No seeds = vegetable. 
            One more controversy and I promise to quit.  Should you eat tomatoes raw or cooked?   Fresh tomatoes are alkaline, but cooked tomatoes are highly acidic.  So are tomatoes alkaline or acidic?
            Iím sorry.  I should have stopped.  Now you have one more thing to worry about.


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