•    Tomato Tomato!   

    New Jersey holds the distinction of having the best tomato in the world. It’s named as the official state vegetable. When you mention Georgia, peaches come to mind. With Florida it’s oranges. With New Jersey it’s the tomato.





    Is the Tomato a Fruit Or Vegetable?

    The tomato is a fruit in the botanical world. Fruits are the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food. Since tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants all contain seeds within and eaten, they are all classified as botanical fruits. A vegetable is defined as parts of the plant other than the seed producing part such as the roots, leaves and/or stems which are eaten as food.


    In culinary terms things are much different. Foods that are botanically fruits, but which are considered by chefs to be savory rather than sweet are typically considered vegetables. This includes botanical fruits such as eggplants, peppers and tomatoes.


    In 1893 the fruit vs. vegetable debate reached a point to where the highest court weighed in on the matter. In the case of United States Supreme Court case Nix. v. Hedden, the court rule unanimously that an imported tomato should be taxed as a vegetable, rather than as a fruit. Back in that time fruits carried a lesser tax. The court acknowledged the tomato is a botanical fruit. But the court went with what they called the “ordinary” or definitions of fruits and vegetables typically used in the kitchen.

    New Jersey named the tomato the official state vegetable although there is a debate in the legislature whether the tomato is actually a fruit or a vegetable. The blueberry was already named as the official state fruit. So the legislature solved this dilemma by declaring the Jersey tomato a vegetable.

     The Jersey Tomato

    Regardless whether you call the tomato a fruit or vegetable, during the peak months of July through early September New Jersey produces the best tomatoes in the world. There is no such variety as a Jersey tomato. The Jersey tomato is a nondescript red, round tomato. It’s defined as a tomato your great-grandfather might have grown in the backyard. Classic Jerseys are hybrid tomatoes bred by seed companies or in laboratories like the one at Rutger’s University Agricultural Extension Center and are known to have certain qualities such as resistance to disease or high yields. But back in the 1980’s Jersey almost lost the variety of tomato that once was virtually defined as “The Jersey Tomato”. More on this on my next post.


    Thanks for reading!



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