Pluto is a Tomato

Pluto’s demotion from planet to dwarf planet yesterday is making all the news. As a follow-up to my comment on Jeb’s post, Boortz’s complaint was even less valid when he said it took 3,000 astronomers to decide on Pluto’s status, since only 300 actually voted on the issue.

Anyway, whether Pluto is a planet or not is like whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Ultimately it doesn’t really affect anything. But just so you know, I looked up the definition of vegetable in my Microsoft Bookshelf dictionary, which says that any plant product grown to be eaten is a vegetable. That includes lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, and I guess wheat. So tomatoes are clearly a vegetable.

vegetable: noun; Abbr. veg.

1. a. A plant cultivated for an edible part, such as the root of the beet, the leaf of spinach, or the flower buds of broccoli or cauliflower. b. The edible part of such a plant. c. A member of the vegetable kingdom; a plant.

Of course, this still doesn’t answer the question of whether a tomato is a fruit. For that you need the definition of fruit:

fruit: noun; plural fruit or fruits

1. a. The ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant, together with accessory parts, containing the seeds and occurring in a wide variety of forms. b. An edible, usually sweet and fleshy form of such a structure. c. A part or an amount of such a plant product, served as food: fruit for dessert.

Under definition 1b, a tomato is not a fruit, but under 1a, it is. So I think you can say that a tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant, but not in the same sense as apples and bananas.

The definition of tomato had an interesting story:

Word Origin: It has been said that the real contributions to world civilization were made by the unknown inhabitants of the Americas who domesticated plants such as the potato and squash and not by the great pre-Columbian civilizations, including that of the Aztecs. The tomato was another contribution, its name coming ultimately from the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs as well as by other groups in Mexico and Central America. The Spanish, who conquered the area, brought back the tomato to Spain and, borrowing the Nahuatl word tomatl for it, named it tomate, a form shared in French, Portuguese, and early Modern English. Tomate, first recorded in 1604, gave way to tomato, a form created in English either because it was assumed to be Spanish or under the influence of the word potato. In any case, as is well known, people resisted eating this New World food at first because its membership in the Nightshade family made it suspect, but it is now eaten throughout the world while Aztec civilization is memorialized by ruins.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from InfoSoft International, Inc. All rights reserved.

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