While tomatoes are technically fruit, in the culinary sense they are vegetables - at least to Westerners AKA English speakers. But this is not the case for all cultures.

While living in Korea, I noticed tomatoes are in every sense of the word used as fruit.

  • In the supermarket, tomatoes are stacked next to the oranges and pineapples
  • Decorated cakes nestle cherry tomatoes among the glazed ensemble of kiwis and peaches
  • Tomatoes are mixed in with fruit salads although they are admittedly cherry tomatoes. They are found in the fruit toppings of pot bing su and combined with fruit in other desserts and fruit platters

It wasn't until my Korean friend offered me slices of tomato as a snack that the true differences in perception were laid bare. "Would you like some tomato slices sprinkled with sugar?" My face reflexively contorted into a grimace. Recovering from the mere suggestion, I replied,
"NO, but some salt and pepper would be great."
To which her own nose wrinkled in a mix of shock and disgust as if I'd asked for gravy on my ice cream.

One interesting counterpoint though, when testing the limits of tomato's fruity goodness, I asked if tomato candy was available in Korea. It wasn't. Is there tomato fruit flavor candy anywhere in the world?

Consider other non-fruity fruits, and the nature of fruitiness. There are several other borderline members, where being a fruit depends more on your culture or upbringing than botanical accuracy. There are the cucurbits that include many melons which most would call fruit but also include members such as cucumbers, marrows and zucchinis that are not sweet. Cucurbits like pumpkins and other thick skinned gourds are a world to their own. Avocados* while not sweet have a unique fatty flesh which makes them more nut like, Capsicum (Bell peppers) come the closest to tomato's ambivalence, being equally colorful and sweet but unlike the substitions of tomatoes for cherries would never be included in a fruit salad.

*Swap informs me, that in Brazil, avocados are eaten sprinkled with sugar

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