Vegetable of the Vine?

By Angela Denstad Stigeler

The debate about whether or not a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable seems to be only slightly less contentious than the age-old dilemma of how to pronounce its name. Botanically speaking, tomatoes fit the definition of fruit to a T; however, common culinary use would plant them firmly in the category of vegetable. When the US Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on the matter in order to decide if a ten percent vegetable tariff should apply to tomato imports, Justice Horace Gray admitted in his 1893 decision that while tomatoes are “the fruit of a vine,” they are “usually served at dinner in, with or after the soup, fish or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”

If you’re still not sure whether to side with the botanists or the court, you can further blur the distinction by trying this wonderful cherry tomato cobbler recipe, giving tomatoes a treatment usually reserved for sweets. The savory thyme biscuits atop the roasted cherry tomatoes and caramelized onions are sure to please. So whether you say tomato is vegetable or fruit, you’re sure to pronounce this dish delicious.



Cherry Tomato Cobbler


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 pounds cherry tomatoes, rinsed

salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter

3/4 cup heavy cream or buttermilk, plus extra cream for glaze


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over high heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook the onion for 20-25 minutes until caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Let cool a bit before adding the tomatoes, 3 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large glass pie plate or casserole.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. For the dough, mix together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, thyme and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes or grate it into the dry ingredients, and mix it in to the flour using your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives. Gradually add heavy cream or buttermilk, mixing the dough with a fork. The dough will be a little sticky. Spoon 5-7 clumps of biscuit dough over the tomatoes in a circle, leaving the center open. Brush the dough with cream. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly and garnish with fresh thyme to serve.