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Vine Ripe Pink Tomato

Arkansas State Fruit & Vegetable

Tomatos at farmers market in Little Rock, Arkansas; photo by Scott Adams on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike).

South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato

Arkansas designated the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato as the official state fruit and vegetable in 1987. New Jersey recognizes the tomato as the state vegetable and Tennessee adopted the tomato as the official state fruit. Why the descrepancy? Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

"Fruit" and "vegetable" are culinary terms, not botanical. Botanically, a tomato is a large berry (fruit). But tomatos are not as sweet as most fruit and are usually served as part of a salad or main course (as vegetables), rather than at dessert (the usual time for serving fruits).

The question of whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable had legal implications in the United States in 1887 when U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruits. In 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the tomato is a vegetable based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use; that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304). This finding applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883 (the court did not claim to be changing the botanical classification of the tomato).

The tomato remains a fruit when not dealing with US tariffs (due to the scientific definition of a fruit). Other botanical fruits that are considered vegetables in the culinary world: eggplant, cucumber, and squash (all kinds - zucchini to pumpkins).