MANY of us can distinguish the difference between fruit and vegetables, but when it comes to tomatoes, we are not sure what to answer.

That’s because the answer can be complex, and tomatoes can be technically both.  

Depending on who you ask the answer will be different.  

For a foodstuff to be a fruit there needs to be at least one seed with growth coming from a plant. Tomatoes contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.  A vegetable, on the other hand, in botanical terms doesn’t have a set definition but is more of a general term that covers all other edible parts of the plant above and beyond the seed, i.e. roots, stems and leaves.

But if you use the culinary definition, a tomato can be classed as a vegetable due to the way the plant is used and for flavour profiles.  Fruit usually has a soft texture, tends to be either sweet or tart and is often enjoyed raw or in desserts and jams.  Tomatoes can be juicy, sweet, and enjoyed raw, but we can also prepare them in savoury dishes that are not sweet which is why people class them in the vegetable group too. In terms of hot food, they are most often done in savoury dishes like other vegetables in which fruits are usually exempt. They are particularly common in Italian and French cuisine and Mediterranean food generally.

Tomatoes are a great addition to a sandwich as well as a salad or wrap and contain good amounts of vitamins and minerals like potassium, manganese, vitamin B9 and vitamin C.  These help with electricity in our bodies, calcium storage in bone, red blood cells and normal functioning of our immune systems.  

• Lee McCusker (BA; MSc; MSc; MSc; ANutr; SENr) is a registered nutritionist from Belfast and can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Email: attentivenutrition