Top 10 Gifts of 2016 for Teachers

Are you looking to honor your teacher with a seasonal holiday gift? Maybe your close friend just happens to teach for a living? You might give them a present that serves double-duty, one that not only commemorating your special relationship but also serving a purpose in their classroom. We have plenty of ideas for worthwhile teacher gifts. Let them know they are remembered while giving them a great classroom accessory at the same time.

1. Garden In-A-Can Set ($24.99): You don’t need an outdoor garden to grow your own herbs at home. Forget the yard entirely and go with the Garden-In-A-Can set. It comes with cans for growing four types of herbs: basil, cilantro, sage, and dill. Class activity: Split everyone into 4 groups in a “race” to see who can most successfully nurture their herb.

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2. School Supply Bouquet (price varies): Here’s a great homemade gift for those friends of yours in the education business. Buy a bunch of school supplies — glue, paper, staples, rulers, and the like — and place them into a stylish arrangement. Make use of a handsome container or other appealing presentation to lend a thoughtful air to your gift. It’s one that your teacher friend will use and benefit from.

school-supply-bouquet_nz3kmnPhoto credit: She Knows.

3. Water Garden ($99.99): Serving as both a fish tank and herb garden, this has got to be one of the coolest gifts ever. With a Water Garden in your foodie’s kitchen, they might pluck herbs and sprouts for use as garnish in daily dishes, all in the company of a new fish. The self-cleaning ecosystem adds a novel, low-maintenance vibe to any living space.

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4. Crystal Growing Kit ($19.95): In the name of teaching students about the natural world, this Crystal Growing Kit makes an awesome gift to a teacher who might want to put it on display in a classroom. As a crystal begins to form, students will learn lessons about geology. When it’s done, the kit contains all the materials needed to perform seven different crystal growth experiments.crystal5. A Memory-Filled Scrapbook ($35): Making a gift for a teacher will often be a wise course of action. A scrapbook filled with photographs, high-scoring tests, and other academic memories makes a wonderful present to let your educational leader know that you not only appreciate their effort, but that their significant effort will be remembered.

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6. Custom Tote Bag
(price varies): Give your teacher a place to stash their stuff as they migrate from home to classroom and back. You might deck out your gift tote bag with a photograph, some hand-painting, or perhaps even some custom embroidery. It’s a wide world of options when a tote bag is your blank canvas.screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-3-25-03-pm7. Mushroom Farm ($19.99): Kids love nothing more than a fast-moving spectacle. In just 10 days, you can show them how mushrooms grow to maturity out of a cardboard box. Open this boxed mushroom farm, spray its contents with water, and harvest your mushrooms a little over a week later.

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8. Amazon Gift Cards (your choice): Whether they need to buy something for the classroom or their personal lives, sometimes it’s best to just give someone the resources to treat themselves and the instructions to do so. Amazon sells a little bit of everything. If your teacher needs new books, new clothes, or a new DVD box set, you can’t go too wrong making more of Amazon available to them.screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-3-26-43-pm9. Worm Farm Composter ($139): With this composter, teachers have a way to introduce students to the ideas associated with composting and recycling. They’ll raise a small colony of earth-enriching worms that go to work to make healthy soil, and students will get to observe them doing so.

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10. Make a donation. Perhaps your teacher is a vocal supporter of some cause — pony up and let them know you’re lending support on their behalf. You might also contribute to an education- or child-related cause that makes a natural intersection with teaching. Consider Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or Locks of Love.

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Top 10 Gifts of 2016 for Chefs & Foodies

The gift-giving season is upon us, and if you’re stumped on gift ideas for your foodie friends, then worry no more! There are a variety of exciting, engaging gifts you can give that they’re bound to love. Some may even deepen their relationship with food, perhaps as they grow a mushroom from scratch in a new mushroom farm and nurse them all the way to the dinner table.

After you’ve got your food-minded friend covered, make sure to treat yourself too!

1. Angurello Watermelon Slicer ($19.95): It’s time to redefine what we expect from everyone’s favorite vine-like flowering plant. When your chef or foodie friend wields this stainless steel utensil, their watermelon slices will come out in neat, perfect pieces, and their hands remain completely dry. Who knew that watermelon technology had yet to be perfected?

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2. Water Garden ($99.99): Serving as both a fish tank and herb garden, this has got to be one of the coolest gifts ever. With a Water Garden in your foodie’s kitchen, they might pluck herbs and sprouts for use as garnish in daily dishes, all in the company of a new fish. The self-cleaning ecosystem adds a novel, low-maintenance vibe to any living space.

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3. Tortilla Press ($120): If you don’t want to start with a good store-bought tortilla, you can of course make your own with help from this niche culinary gadget. By applying exactly the right amount of force to turn masa into a freshly pressed tortilla. With this gift given, you’ll forever change the nature of your food-minded friend’s relationship related to his or her relationship with tacos and burritos forever.

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4. Self-Watering Planter ($29.99): What are tortillas without salsa? With this self-watering planter, you can grow your own cherry tomatoes in low-maintenance fashion. It only requires water once a week, providing a low-fuss way to people to grow their own delicious, organic food.

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5. The Matcha Maker ($35): Know a matcha lover? This Matcha Maker is a match-a made in heaven. On the go foodie friends will enjoy their matcha wherever they please in a matter of seconds! Just add tea, hot water, then shake-n-sip!matcha-maker6. Coffee Cold Brew Gift Set ($36): If cold brew is a must-have in the morning, give it an eco-friendly twist with this reusable mason jar kit. Not only is it innovative, but all you have to do is add ground coffee to the filter, fill it up with cold water, and let it soak overnight! Best part about this gift? You can use the mason jar on the go and enjoy a complimentary aromatic blend of Brazilian and Guatemalan coffee.

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7. Ceramic Compost Keeper
($24.95): Going back and forth to your compost bin every time you cook can be tiresome, not to mention the smell can get foul. Fear no more – this ceramic compost keeper will make any chef and foodie’s life easier by having it right on their kitchen counter, and give their composting lifestyle quicker and easier. With this simple, elegant design, it will also relieve any bad odors.compost

8. Mushroom Farm ($19.99): Did you know it only takes 10 days to grow your own delicious mushrooms out of a box? Your foodie friend will have everything it takes to turn the kitchen counter into an agricultural force to be reckoned with, as this mushroom farm yields delectable oyster mushrooms from the comfort of your home. It only requires that you open the box, mist it with water, and harvest it just 10 days later.

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9. Artisanal Salt Sampler ($35): The world of salt is diverse enough that you might consider buying this selection of six different kinds of sodium, which come with their own wooden display stand. Included in the selection are exotic-sounding salts like habanero, sweet onion, and black garlic. Your french fries will never be the same again.

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10. Better Baking: Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts ($19.68): We all fall for the sweet, savory desserts we like to indulge in to fulfill our sweet tooth – but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for our health. Luckily, chef Genevieve Ko has created a collaboration of healthy recipes that are just as indulgent as that chocolate cake you’ve been craving. Which healthy dessert will you try first?

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Sage Roasted Butternut Squash – Yum!

Nothing quite says fall like warm butternut squash. Fulfill your cravings with this quick and easy side dish that blends fresh, homegrown sage and rosemary for a sweet & savory twist! Preheat your oven, turn on your favorite holiday tunes, and dance like no one’s watching while you fill your house with the best flavors and fragrances of fall!

Cook time : 35 minutes
Makes 3 cups (4-6 servings)

Ingredients:buttnerup

  • 3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, add butternut squash, sage, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix until all the squash is coated in oil.
  3. Spread the squash onto the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Serve while hot!

Tips:

– quick and easy side for the holidays!
– squash and sage go so well together, sweet and savory!
– can use delicata squash as well – just bake for 40 minutes instead.
– to make it faster, you can use pre-cut butternut squash from your local grocery store.

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Sage and Plum Galette

Like what you see above? Don’t worry, it tastes even better.  This unique pairing of sage and plum are a match made in heaven, making an irresistibly floral, fragrant blend to fill the buttery crust. Not only is it quick and easy to prepare , but the colorful combo makes a beautiful addition that will shine in any holiday dessert spread!

Cooking Time: 40 mins
Makes one 8 inch galette (4-5 people)

img_7114Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-inch) pre-made pie crust
  • 3 plums, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
  • 1/2tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Demerara sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together sliced plums, sugar, sage and lemon juice. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Lay the sliced plums onto the pie crust, leaving a 2 inch border around the edge. Fold the edge of the pie crust over and brush with egg wash and sprinkle crust with Demerara sugar.
  4. Bake galette for 30-40 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature or warmed.
  5. Enjoy!

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Vegan Mushroom Gravy

It’s that time of year again… holiday feasts are upon us and we’re digging up our favorite recipes. This year, switch it up and surprise your guests with a dish that’s not just homemade, but homegrown! This delicious (and vegan!) Mushroom Gravy, features oyster mushrooms that you can grow in just 10 days. Add a hint of rosemary and thyme, and you’ll have the perfect savory gravy over garlic mashed potatoes or fluffy biscuits.

Disclaimer: They’ll never know it’s vegan, but it’ll definitely taste homegrown!

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • img_73062 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion, small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz (~2 cups) oyster mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Once oil is hot, add onion, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Sauté for 10-12 minutes or until mushrooms have browned. They might stick to the bottom of the pan, don’t worry, you want that!
  2. Once the mushrooms have browned, carefully add the dry white wine and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated away. Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat  and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and water. Pour the flour slurry into the gravy mixture and stir until nice and thick. Remove from heat and add 3 tbsp of vegan butter and stir until the butter is melted in. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve while hot over mashed potatoes or biscuits!

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Mini Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes!

To pie or cheesecake? That is the [Thanksgiving] question. Take a step back and prepare your tastebuds for the combo you’ve been waiting for…yes, Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake! These mini servings are as tasty as they are adorable, with a (mostly) guilt-free, crunchy crust made of whole wheat Biodynamic Cinnamon Clusters. The catch? They’ll disappear from your plate in five seconds flat 😉

Cooking Time: 45 minsimg_6996
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes or one 9 inch cake

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cup Biodynamic® Cinnamon Clusters
  • 1 1/2 tbsp organic coconut sugar
  • 4 tbsp melted butter

Pumpkin Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin pureeimg_7005
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • toasted pecans (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Blend 1 1/2 cups cinnamon clusters until fine. In a small bowl, mix together crushed Cinnamon clusters, coconut sugar, and melted butter. Mix well.
  3. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the cinnamon crust into each cupcake liner and press down with a spoon. Bake for 5 minutes to set.
  4. While the crusts are cooling, add cream cheese, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. Whisk until the batter is almost smooth. Add egg and whisk until batter is smooth.
  5. Spoon ~2 tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Tap the tray down to smooth out the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the middle is just set. Remove and cool on the counter. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

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Spice Up Your Life: Stuffed Bell Pepper Style

Thai meets the stuffed bell pepper in a long overdue, tantalizing union. Quinoa, carrots, fresh herbs, and Sriracha meet a creamy, classic Thai sauce creating the zesty combo you didn’t know you needed, but won’t be able to live without.

PRO TIP: [add these avocado fries for a delicious crunchy side!]

The marriage we didn’t know we’d been missing, but can’t live without: Thai and the stuffed bell pepper. Surprise yourself with this tasty thai basil quinoastuffed bell pepper dish! You’ll never know what your taste buds will encounter next with all the fresh herbs inside. Think you can handle it?

Cook time: 45 mins
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:img_6103

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, washed in cold water
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • Sriracha, to taste
  • 2 medium bell peppers
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 355 F.  
  2. Heat coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Stir well and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in garlic and stir. Sauté for another 3 minutes. Stir in Thai red curry paste and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable broth OR water. Add in the quinoa, basil, chives, cilantro, and carrots. Stir well and bring to a boil, then simmer while covered for 15 minutes on low heat. Once quinoa is cooked stir in the chopped spinach and cook until it is wilted. Add Sriracha and salt to taste.
  3. Cut the top of the bell peppers off and take out the seeds and ribs. Fill the bell pepper with the quinoa mixture.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes to soften the bell pepper.
  5. Remove bell peppers from the oven and top with scallions and chopped peanuts.

Enjoy while hot!

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15 Minutes To Gourmet Vegan S’mores

Take a ride on the vegan side with these gooey, gourmet s’mores! Brace yourself for change as we introduce a whole new dimension to your fireside favorite — from coconut oil to Cinnamon Clusters, vegan milk chocolate, and marshmallows — your campfire treat will never be the same!


Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup Cinnamon Clusters, crushed
– 1 cup vegan graham crackers, crushed
– 7 tbsp vegan butter, melted
– 10 oz vegan milk chocolate, melted
– 10 oz vegan mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper.img_6663
  2. Add crushed Cinnamon Clusters, graham crackers, vegan butter and a pinch of salt to a large bowl. Mix until you have a sandy texture. Add mixture to the prepared 8 x 8 pan and press down into an even layer. Use the bottom of a cup to press the crust down firmly.
  3. Add coconut oil to the melted vegan chocolate and stir until well combined. Pour chocolate over the crust and spread into an even layer. Evenly sprinkle mini marshmallows over the top.

Place pan under broiler until marshmallows are nice and brown. Be sure to keep an eye on it so they don’t burn! Let cool and cut into squares!

Enjoy!

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Seattle Launched a Produce “Prescription” Program. It’s a Brilliant Idea.

By Matt Rozsa

When you’re sick and need to take medication, you get a prescription. But what ever happened to that idea by Hippocrates to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?”

That’s the idea in Seattle, where the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic has teamed up with Harborview Medical Center and King County farmers markets with a clever idea to reduce diet-related diseases. Health care providers can now prescribe fruits and vegetables to their patients by writing vouchers for them.You don’t need insurance to get this “prescription” — just a doctor’s recommendation. The patients can then redeem those vouchers at farmers markets or farm stands, making nutritious, healthy food more accessible.

There is good reason to think this will work. When Detroit embarked on a similar program back in 2013, it reported a 93 percent success rate. Granted, it was on a much smaller scale, with only 48 participants who stayed on the fruit-and-vegetable prescription program that lasted for four months. That said, it was also very thorough and smart — each patient was allowed to purchase up to $40 worth of fruits and vegetables that were grown locally, averaging out to $10 each week. Because poor diets are born as much of bad habits as the bad foods themselves, the Detroit residents also received nutritional counseling and healthy cooking demonstrations so that they could use these ingredients in the most effective possible way.

Washtenaw County, which is also in Michigan, has a similar program. As long as a doctor determines that their patient is at risk for a food-related disease, the patient can attend a group enrollment visit and receive prescriptions for fruits and vegetables worth $100. These are spread out over 10 visits ($10 in tokens each) and, like in Detroit, program staff will provide information and support to facilitate the transition into healthy eating habits.

We love how Seattle and these other cities are reminding us of forgotten ancient wisdom of food being our medicine, and how they are helping institutionalize the change towards healthier food by working within the current health care system.

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How Food Companies Sneak 100 Extra Ingredients Into Your “Natural” Food

By Matt Rozsa

Unfortunately, these days  eating foods that are labelled as “natural” isn’t enough to guarantee that what you’re eating is actually natural, simple, or good for you.

In fact one of the most common use of the words “natural” is in the ingredient “natural flavor” — I’m sure you’ve seen it. In fact, it’s the fourth most commonly listed ingredient in food (!) after salt, water, and sugar.  

What’s crazy though, is that in those two little words, over 100 other ingredients can often be hiding — all chemicals that “impersonate” the real, natural flavor of your “natural food.”

If an ingredient is listed as a natural flavor, all it means is that it includes chemicals intended to give the impression of a given food’s authentic taste. The FDA defines them as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

The FDA says it “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

Oof.

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, sums it up perfectly: “How a food tastes is largely determined by the volatile chemicals in the food. Chemicals that give food a specific smell are extremely important because smell makes up 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste … In processed food, this mixture of chemicals is called ‘flavor.’ The same mixture of chemicals would be called “fragrance” if it were found in cleaning products, perfumes or cosmetics. The difference between the two is small, and the companies that produce these secret mixtures are often exactly the same.”

There’s growing science as well that these chemicals, though deemed “Generally Regarded as Safe” by the FDA, may not be fully understood by scientists, and in fact could be causing many of the food allergies we see today. So if you want to be on the safer side and avoid eating the 100+ ingredients in “natural flavor,” definitely read each ingredient label to find products that are made with real food ingredients – not “flavor.”

In fact, one could view the use of natural flavors as really just a decades-long effort by big chemical corporations to train us to like a certain taste profile — making us addicted to the taste of their patented fragrance instead of the taste of food grown and eaten as Mother Nature intended, no patents needed.

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Fun Tomato Basil Egg Zucchini Boats

Tired of the same old appetizers with bread, bread, and more bread? That ship has sailed! Our new zucchini boats bring a fun, colorful, and tasty twist to your spread without the typical bloaty breads.

Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes 1-2 servings

Ingredients:img_6650

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup tomato, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese

 


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds and create a bowl in the zucchini. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together egg, cheddar cheese, diced tomato, diced red onion, minced garlic, chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the zucchini and top with shredded parmesan.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the the top browns. Serve while hot!

Enjoy!

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The Fascinating History Of How a Tomato Turned From a Fruit to a Vegetable

By Matt Rozsa

It seems to be an American tradition: you refer to the tomato as a vegetable and someone is bound to chime in to clarify that it is in fact a fruit. After all, they’ll point out, a fruit is any edible plant that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. Indeed, by this logic tomatoes aren’t the only nominal vegetable that ought to be classified as a fruit —  the same thing can be said of cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, pea pods, peppers, eggplants, and even corn kernels.

Make no mistake about it, though: If Mr. or Ms. Smartypants insists on telling you that the tomato is a fruit, you can rebut them by pointing to no less of an authority than the United States Supreme Court. Back in 1886, an importer named John Nix set the botanical world afire when he insisted on not paying a foreign vegetable import tax on his stock of tomatoes, which he observed were scientifically classified as fruits. When the case finally arrived at the Supreme Court in 1893, however, Justice Horace Gray came down on the side of classifying them as vegetables, arguing that the colloquial uses of the terms “fruit” and “vegetable” were more economically germane than the scientific ones.

“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of the vine,” Justice Gray explained. “Just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people… all these vegetables… are usually served at dinner, in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.”

In the end, this all comes down to a question of literal truth versus cultural truth. If you want to understand the tomato as an organic structure part of the natural world, you need to talk about it as a fruit, because within that context that’s exactly what it is. When talking about dietary issues, however, it is disingenuous to refer to the tomato as a fruit, since it is almost always consumed as a vegetable — in salads, as a topping, as the basis for a condiment, etc.

The tomato’s proper classification may be a surprisingly complicated subject, but it’s still an important one, and we’re all better off being well-informed about it.

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