Is A Tomato A Berry? [Yes And No – Here’s Why]

Image of cut tomatoes in a dish

In the culinary world, the tomato is treated as a vegetable. However, it’s botanically classified as a fruit. Now, berries are a type of fruit, and tomatoes resemble berries in several ways. So, is a tomato a berry?

Yes, tomatoes are berries as they develop from the yellow flowers of the plant. The ovary inside the flower becomes the fleshy part of the fruit, and it bears many seeds. However, tomatoes don’t contain high amounts of sugar, like most fruits. That’s why nutritionists classify them as vegetables.

Let’s delve deeper into this now.

Are Tomatoes Vegetables Or Fruits?

Tomatoes are perhaps one of the most widely confused ingredients in the culinary world. While botanists claim that they are fruits, chefs treat them as vegetables.

This confusion occurs because culinary descriptions aren’t based on technical facts.

Did you know that the US Supreme court declared the tomato a vegetable?

However, this decision was based on its culinary use. Technically, tomatoes are and will always be fruits for the following reasons.

Fruits and vegetables are botanically classified according to structure and the part of the plant from which they are formed.

When the produce is formed from reproductive parts of a plant, like flowers, we call them fruits. Fruits contain the seeds that give rise to the next generation of plants.

Meanwhile, produce derived from the auxiliary or non-reproductive parts of the plant are vegetables. So, the roots, stems, and leaves of plants form vegetables, not fruits.

By this description, tomatoes are fruits. However, things become a little different when we look at their culinary standing.

In the culinary world, the origin of a fruit or vegetable has no bearing on its classification.

It doesn’t matter whether an ingredient comes from the flower, root, or stem. The flavor decides whether it’s a vegetable or fruit.

So, fruits are sweet and fleshy. They are usually soft and can be consumed raw. Meanwhile, vegetables have a bland or sour taste. Although some vegetables can be consumed raw, most require cooking.

Now, tomatoes are soft and juicy but rarely sweet. They fit better into the list of savory ingredients and are considered vegetables in the culinary world.

Raw tomatoes are used in salads and relishes. However, they’re more extensively used for cooking.

You can use them in sauces, purees, soups, and various other recipes. They also work very well with other vegetables in various dishes like curries and casseroles.

What Types Of Fruits Are Tomatoes?

When you wear your botany cap and look at the tomato from a strictly scientific perspective, it’s a fruit.

As we saw earlier, fruits are formed from the reproductive parts of a plant. We can broadly classify them into four main categories based on the way they form. They’re simple, aggregate, multiple, and accessory fruits.

Now, simple fruits develop from a single ovary of a single flower. You can further divide them into berries and drupes.

Berries have soft, pulpy flesh and several seeds. Meanwhile, drupes have pulpy, fibrous, or leathery flesh and a stone pit.

Tomatoes are the perfect example of a berry. They are simple fruits with fleshy pulps and contain numerous seeds.

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What Qualifies As A Berry?

Interestingly, fruits like strawberries and raspberries with the word ‘berry” in their name aren’t technically berries.

The term berry comes from the Latin word “baca,” which means small round fruit. So, you can call any small edible fruit a berry. However, this nomenclature isn’t accurate.

Berries, by definition, are simple fleshy fruits produced from the ovary of a single flower. They have a fleshy pulp and multiple seeds. If the seed is replaced by a stone pit, the fruit becomes a drupe.

Berries may be present alone or in clusters, depending on the plant and how the flowers appear on them.

Although they may not have the term “berry” in their name, many fruits and vegetables we use every day are berries.

For instance, grapes, currants, kiwis, and tomatoes are berries. Even certain vegetables like aubergines and cucumbers are berries. Peppers are also berries.

Strawberries aren’t berries because their seeds aren’t inside the fruit. If you look at them closely, you will notice that their skin is studded with tiny seeds.

So strawberries are a multiple fruit in which several tiny fruits combine to form a single fleshy receptacle.

Is Tomato A True Berry?

Various tomatoes kept on a table

To find whether a tomato is a true berry, we should first understand what is a true berry.

Berries are fleshy fruits formed from the ovary of a single flower. They may have a single seed or many seeds. However, berries will not have a thick pit.

We can further classify berries as true and false berries. This distinction depends on where the ovary and flower are located in the fruit.

True berries develop from a superior ovary. It simply means that the sepals, petals, and stamens of the flower arise from beneath the ovary.

So, the ovary sits above the reproductive parts of the flower, and the term “superior.”

True berries will usually have a thin outer layer of skin attached to the fleshy part. This skin is delicate and can’t hold up on its own.

The alternative to true berries is modified or false or epigynous berries. These develop from an inferior ovary.

In these fruits, the ovary isn’t above the other reproductive parts of the flower. Fruits like bananas and coffee are epigynous or false berries.

The tomato is a true berry because it develops from a superior ovary. It also has thin and delicate outer skin protecting its fleshy pulp.

Apart from true berries and false berries, there’s a third type of fruit called modified berries.

Drupes, pomes, aggregate fruits, multiple fruits, and accessory fruits belong to this category. They aren’t berries in the true sense. However, we call them berries or berry-like fruits in common English.

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Is The Cherry Tomato A Berry?

Cherry tomatoes are miniature versions of regular tomatoes. They resemble regular tomatoes in terms of structure and color but are much smaller.

Their flavors also resemble that of tomatoes. However, they have a more concentrated taste profile.

Technically, cherry tomatoes are just another variety of tomatoes. These tiny, colorful vegetables are, in fact, ancestors of regular tomatoes that grew abundantly in the wild.

Before they were domesticated, these tomatoes grew like weeds. The wild varieties were tiny but had the same characteristics and taste profile as regular tomatoes.

Newer hybrids are slightly bigger, but other characteristics remain the same.

Nowadays, you can find different varieties of cherry tomatoes. They can be spherical or oblong. The size will also differ, with some varieties being bigger than others.

So, are cherry tomatoes berries?

Yes, cherry tomatoes are true berries, just like regular tomatoes. Their structure is very similar to that of a tomato.

Cherry tomatoes also originate from a single ovary of a single flower. They have multiple seeds inside them. Additionally, they also have a thin membrane covering their pulp. Hence, they satisfy all the requirements of a berry.

So not only are cherry tomatoes fruits, but they’re also true berries.