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So why was it so important that tomatoes be defined legally as a vegetable? Well, back in 1883, a tariff was put in place to protect domestic vegetable growers by taxing imported vegetables. In 1886, the plaintiffs (Nix) imported some tomatoes from the West Indies. The collector of the port of New York (Hedden) imposed a duty on the tomatoes, which he considered vegetables. The plaintiffs paid the duty under protest and sued Hedden, arguing that tomatoes are botanically a fruit, and therefore should not be taxed as a vegetable. The case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which decided that while tomatoes are indeed botanically defined as fruit, consumers think of tomatoes as vegetables, and that is how they should be legally defined.