Are Tomatoes a Fruit or a Vegetable? (And How to Use the Tomato Strategy to Win Against All Odds)

Are Tomatoes a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

1. Botanical Scientists Say:

Anything with seeds is a fruit. Tomatoes have seeds in them. So they are a fruit.

2.The Cooks Say:

Not so fast. If we just go along with the seeds, cucumbers, corn, green beans and walnuts would come under fruits too.

Practical definition of an object comes from how it is used, not from what it has. From function – not form. Because tomatoes are used in savoury and not in sweet cooking – and are never served as desserts, they are not fruits. They are vegetables.

3. What does the law say?

Its 1883 and USA has enacted the Tariff Act. Taxes are imposed on imported vegetables. But not on imported fruits. Edward Hedden is the collector of port of New York. And he levies taxes on imported tomatoes.

So in 1887, the Nix family sues Edward Hedden for levying taxes on a fruit.

In 1893, the case reaches the US Supreme court. Both sides bring out their dictionaries and expert witnesses. After some consideration, the Supreme Court makes its decision:

Tomatoes are vegetables!

(The US Supreme Court gives a reason saying that in common speech, tomatoes are vegetables. But critics say that if taxes were levied on fruits only and not on vegetables, the Supreme Court would then claim that tomatoes are fruits.)

Final verdict:

in USA at least, tomatoes are vegetables by law. Scientifically, you can call them fruits. But in supermarkets, you’ll never find tomatoes placed near apples and bananas and other such fruits because practically, tomatoes are used as vegetables.

(In essence, there is no final verdict. We will always have dinner table discussions debating whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables.)

Notwithstanding if tomatoes are fruits or vegetables; did you know that tomatoes are one of the most popular plant foods grown?

Tomatoes Soaring Popularity

If you consider tomatoes as fruits, it’s the highest produced fruit in the world. Bananas – the number two fruit – lag behind tomatoes by a mighty 25%!

And if you consider tomatoes as vegetables, only potatoes, beans and sugarcane (for sugar) beat tomatoes in production.

That’s an astounding achievement considering:

1. Besides tomato soup, tomatoes aren’t the sole main ingredient for any other dishes

2. When you ask people what their favourite fruit or vegetable is, you will never ever hear tomatoes!

Tomatoes have become this popular not because they’re liked by all. But because they’re not unliked by anyone! Tomatoes are the best # 2 out there. They are the ultimate sidekick. Tomatoes popularity lies in going with everything.

Just like Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln Uses The Tomato Strategy to Become the President of USA

Lincoln Memorial at Washington DC

Its 1860, and the Republican Party in USA has to select their presidential nominee.

Every one thinks that William Seward – the senator from New York will win the nomination with ease. He is the most popular candidate by far.

There are a few other candidates too. Notable amongst them are Edward Bates of Missouri and Salmon Chase of Ohio. One comparatively unknown candidate from Illinois joins the race too: Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln knew that he wouldn’t be able to become the favourite choice of the majority of the delegates. Many delegates are too loyal to Seward, Bates and Chase already. But Lincoln also knows that no candidate has majority backing either.

So Lincoln decides on a strategy to become the number 2 choice of the highest number of delegates! His strategy is to give offence to no one. He wants to leave the delegates “in the mood to come to us, if they shall be compelled to give up their first love.”

So while Seward, Bates and Chase concentrate only on their core constituency, Lincoln travels the country – willing to go anywhere to give speeches. For eg: When Seward is on a trip to Europe and Cooper Union in New York is looking for a Republican to give a speech to its audience, Salmon Chase declines the invitation thinking that he can make no in-roads in New York – Seward’s state. But Abraham Lincoln jumps on the chance in a jiffy!

The Fight For the Nomination

Lincoln - Seward - Chase - Bates

May 18, 1960 comes. It’s the day when Republican delegates nominate their presidential candidate. A candidate requires at least 233 votes to win. In the first round, the results are:

  • Seward: 173½ votes
  • Lincoln: 102 votes
  • Chase: 49 votes
  • Bates: 48 votes

Seward has the lead with a very good margin. But things change quickly during the second round when people start changing their votes to select one sole winner.

In round 2, Seward receives 184½ votes – hardly moving ahead. But Lincoln makes huge strides and receives 181 votes – only 3½ votes behind Seward. Both Chase and Bates lose ground and the match is now between Seward and Lincoln alone.

But over the years, Seward has made quite a few enemies. And not many people like him outside his core constituency. Where as, Lincoln has spent a lot of time making sure he is the number 2 choice of the majority of the delegates. And so, in round 3, Lincoln quickly gains the lead and crosses 233 votes to become nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate!

After the Republican delegation, many people are shocked and surprised to know that Seward – who is a house hold name – lost to Lincoln who is comparatively unknown. Many think that Lincoln won due to trickery.

But Lincoln wins because he adopts an approach of becoming the best number 2 man out there and offending no one. His competitors – although more well known than him, lose because even though they have more friends, they have more enemies too.

“Lincoln was considered less radical than Seward and Chase, but less conservative than Bates. He was less offensive than Seward to the Know Nothings, but more acceptable than Bates to the German-Americans.” – Doris Kearns (Historian and author of “Team of Rivals – The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”)

Action Summary:

  • If the competition is stiff, and you’re not the first one on the scene – instead of trying to become the number one choice of people, position yourself to become the best number 2 choice out there.
  • Because everyone else will be vying for the number 1 spot, the competition for the number 2 spot will be next to nothing.
  • To become the best number 2 out there, you have to implement the strategy of increasing your reach without offending anyone.


In USA, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the day when most number of tomatoes are sold in the year. How come? Because everyone makes sandwiches out of Thanksgiving leftovers. And they need tomatoes for these sandwiches!


Avis Ad

Avis became the no.1 car rental company because of their “We’re No.2 so we try harder” campaign. And they kept on using the same campaign for a long time even after they had become no.1!