The United States Supreme Court has declared that the tomato is a vegetable and not a fruit!
In an 1883 decision, Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, for purposes of U.S. customs regulations and the Tariff Act of 1883, the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit. Under the Act, customs duties were to be paid on imported vegetables. The petitioners argued that they were entitled to recover back duties paid under protest because the tomato was a fruit since, botanically, it was a seed-bearing structure growing from the flowering part of a plant. The petitioners and the defendant, Edward L. Hedden, Collector of the Port of New York, read into evidence several dictionary definitions of ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’ as well as the definition of ‘tomato’. The parties also called witnesses to testify whether the terms ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’ had any specific meaning in trade and commerce.
Justice Horace Gray, writing for the Court, acknowledged that botanically, tomatoes are classified as “fruit of the vine”; nevertheless, since tomato had no specific meaning in trade or commerce, they were seen in common parlance as vegetables because they were usually eaten as a main course instead of being eaten as a dessert. In making his decision, Justice Gray mentioned another U.S. Supreme Court case, Robertson v. Salomon, 130 U.S. 412, 414, in which Justice Bradley similarly found that, though a bean is botanically a seed, in common usage and understanding, a bean is seen as a vegetable. While on the subject, Justice Gray clarified the status of the cucumber, squash, pea and bean as vegetables.