IberiaNature A guide to the natural history and food of Spain

Mainstay Fruit & Vegetables

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

I find Spanish ideas about vegetables rather curious. On the one hand, there are confusing and overlapping distinctions between hortalizas [garden produce], legumbres [pulses or legumes - beans etc.] and verduras [greens]. On the other hand, the lack of a distinction between different types of fruit such as nuts and berries is disconcerting. Most startling of all is the way that any kind of vegetarian, when not treated with total contempt, will be assured that such-and-such a dish contains no meat, when it is in fact stuffed with ham, bacon, pork sausages, chicken or fish, but no actual carne !. I have met very few Spanish vegetarians, and relatively few dishes are totally vegetable-based.

When is a fruit not a fruit? In the absence of Biblical guidance or a pronouncement from the House of Lords, I was pleased to unearth the following:

The Tariff Act of 1883 was a rather innocuous piece of American legislation levying a 10% tax on imported vegetables. A tomato importer and decided to challenge its application to tomatoes on the botanical grounds that a tomato was in fact technically a fruit, not a vegetable, and should therefore be exempt from said tax. The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States as Nix v . Hedden , (1893) 149 U.S. 304, and that august body rejected the botanical argument that the tomato is in fact a monstrously sized berry, and deferred to the culinary vernacular of vegetable to describe it. Justice Gray wrote, "Botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruits of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower celery and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with or after the fish, poultry or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not as fruits, which are generally served as dessert". The tax is still levied on imported tomatoes.

Who am I to presume to gainsay the Supreme Court of the United States of America ? I think the same approach can be extended to peppers, courgette and aubergines.


See also

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.



Francis Barrett's Deconstruction of Catalan and Spanish Food

See aslo a brief guide to Catalan food by Simon Rice


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