Arkansas first began to adopt its own official state symbols in 1901. Many more have been adopted since then, and a state symbol can come in the form of state animals, mammals, a state bird and flower, fruits, vegetables, amphibians, nicknames, and much more.
State symbols were adopted by states to best represent them and their historical roots, and past and present successes. Like all other states, there are many Arkansas state symbols that epitomize the state.
South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato
The Arkansas state fruit and vegetable is the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato (pinus). Since 1987, Arkansas has been recognizing the tomato as the official state vegetable, but the key question is whether or not tomatoes are fruits or vegetables. This gets even weirder when you consider that Tennessee has adopted the tomato as its official state fruit (not as a vegetable)!
Fruits and vegetables are considered to be culinary terms rather than actual definitions, so, botanically speaking, tomatoes are large berries, which are fruit. However, tomatoes are not as sweet as fruits are and certainly berries. Typically, tomatoes will be served as a part of a salad or other savory meal, not as a dessert.
In 1887, legal questions began to arise as to whether or not a tomato was a fruit or vegetable as it could have had serious importation and exportation implications due to a U.S. tariff law that applied to vegetables but not fruit. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court declared that tomatoes were vegetables based on popular definition, classing them by their use, and not being used in desserts.
So, by popular definition, tomatoes are vegetables, but by scientific definition, they remain to be fruit, which is why when defining the Arkansas state fruit and vegetable, Arkansas has adopted both definitions for the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato, making it even more symbolic than most state fruits or vegetables!
Origins of the Pink Tomato
It was in 1961 when the University of Arkansas, located in Fayetteville released a variety of the tomato family. The tomato was officially named the “Bradley Pink”, this tomato variant is more resilient than others, being resistant to fusarium wilt and soil-borne fungal disease.
The tomato showcased a unique pink coloration, and since then more varieties, such as the Arkansas vine ripe pink tomato were born.
Over time, the tomato became increasingly popular, which forced more grocery stores to expand to further markets.
This forced Arkansas farmers to provide red-fleshed tomatoes with thick skins to these stores as they would last longer and travel better. By the time the mid-80s rolled around, most south Arkansas farmers had completely moved on from pink varieties.
During this time period (1987), farmers and civilians of the state were ready to start promoting and regaining the popularity and reputation of the Arkansas vine-ripened pink tomato.
It all came to its final head when Governor Bill Clinton officially signed into law that the vine-ripe pink tomato became the official state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas on March 16, 1987.
Most states will have their symbols showcase a relevant story, that is indicative of the state and its history, and the Natural State puts its history and what it stands for across very well in the Arkansas state fruit and vegetable.
This interesting fact about Arkansas and a whole host of others is what makes the state so unique and fascinating to those that live there or are researching the historical events and symbols of the state.