Wednesday, 6 February 2008

You say tomato, I say...

In 1893, the Nix vs. Hedden case was brought to the US Supreme Court to address whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable.

The case was filed by the Nix family against Edward Hedden a collector of the port of New York. The Nix family wanted to get back duties that were paid under protest. At that time, according to the Tariff Act of 1883, tax was required to be paid on imported vegetables, not fruit.

Botanically, a tomato is a fruit because it develops from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contains the seeds of the plant. However, in 1893, the court ruled unanimously in favour of the defendant- they ruled that tomatoes were a vegetable. This decision was made because the ‘common language of the people’ refers to tomatoes as vegetables and this was the definition used in the Tariff Act.

So… next time someone tries to trick you and asks you whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable- you tell them:
Although botanically a fruit, tomatoes are "vegetables" and not "fruit" within the meaning of the Tariff Act of 1883 based on the common meaning of those words.

In fact, in 2005, supporters in the New Jersey legislature cited Nix as a basis for a bill designating the tomato as the official state vegetable

Similar law suits include:
Carrot: defined to be a fruit in European Community law, for the purpose of jam classification
Toy Biz v. United States: decided that action figures of certain superheroes are legally toys, not dolls.

Aren't fun food facts fun?! :)


Jme said...

keep 'em coming...

Ings said...

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that tomatoes are fruits...

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Hi Ings,
Ya, you're right. The official definition of a tomato is that it's a fruit. Actually, the Nix family used the dictionnary to try to win their case (and not have to pay tax on on their tomatoes).
However, in "regular speak", tomatoes are considered vegetables (you probably don't count your tomato sauce as a fruit serving, right? And chefs don't refer to tomatoes as fruits either).

Because of this, the Supreme Court (in 1893) ruled that although the correct definition of a tomato is a fruit, because it's considered a vegetable in our everyday lives, legally (for taxing purposes), it would be considered a vegetable.