With summer soon upon us, we will finally start to enjoy those delicious home grown tomatoes. The ways to include tomatoes in a meal are only limited by one’s taste buds and imagination. Americans love their tomatoes probably more than any other vegetable–but is it a vegetable? Technically, by botanical definition, the tomato is a fruit in that it is the fleshy product of a plant that contains seeds and can be eaten as food.
This was the definition that the importers John Nix, John W. Nix, George W. Nix, and Frank W. Nix argued for all the way to the Supreme Court in Nix v. Hedden in 1893. The Tariff Act of March 3, 1883 required a 10% tax on imported vegetables. This tax, however, did not apply to fruit, which by definition the tomato is. So the Nixes took the case to court against Edward L. Hedden, the collector of Port of New York to recover duties paid.
At the trial, definitions were submitted from Webster’s Dictionary, Worcester’s Dictionary, and the Imperial Dictionary as “evidence”. The “witnesses” were individuals who had been in the fruit and vegetable business and were asked whether those words or definitions had any special meaning in their trade or commerce.
The court unanimously decided in favor of Mr. Hedden and upheld the definition that the tomato is a vegetable and subject to import taxes. Justice Gray did acknowledge that botanically tomatoes are classified as a “fruit of the vine”, but ultimately they are a vegetable because they are eaten as a main course instead of as a dessert. This decision followed the precedent of the decision reached four years prior in the 1889 case Robertson v Salomon, which cleared the air of the controversy of beans and whether they are “seeds” or “vegetables”.
According to the USDA, the United States is the second largest producer of tomatoes in the world after China. California and Florida produce almost two-thirds of the fresh tomatoes in the country; Georgia is in a distant 5th place in acreage planted. Americans consume three-fourths of their tomatoes in processed form.
In the home garden, tomatoes can be a difficult plant, even in ideal conditions. Wet, humid weather like we have had recently creates ideal conditions for fungal diseases. If browning on lowers leaves or brown spots on leaves or stems is observed, it is best to remove all infected tissue. Reducing or eliminating soil splashing on leaves and stems with mulch will help to prevent infection from fungal diseases. As many of tomato diseases are soil borne, it is recommended to rotate tomatoes and other nightshade family plants like eggplant, peppers, and potatoes on a three to four year rotation. If you have questions about growing tomatoes or identifying problems with your tomatoes you can contact the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Cherokee County at (770)721-7803.
If you are unable to grow your own tomatoes you can get that same home grown tomato taste from one of our great farmers markets in the county.
Tuesday 2:00 – 6:00 River Church Market: Sixes Road
Thursday 3:00 – 6:00 Waleska Farmer’s Market: Reinhardt University
Saturday 8:30 – 12:00 Woodstock Farmer’s Market: Downtown Woodstock
8:00 – 12:00 Canton Farmer’s Market: Cannon Park