Dear Abby: A reader in Vancouver asked why the tomato was classified as a fruit when it was always found in the vegetable department.

You replied that it was commonly thought of as a vegetable because it had more of an "acid" than a "sweet" taste.I am sending an article from the Rocky Mountain News that presents a better explanation.

- Eileen Price, Fort Collins, Colo.

Dear Eileen Price: Thank you. This may tell my readers more about tomatoes than they want to know, but I found it fascinating:

"Although the tomato is botanically classified as a fruit, in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is a vegetable.

"It seems a tariff had been placed on vegetables but not on fruits entering the country. The Collector of Customs for the Port of New York knew an opportunity when he saw one, so he announced that tomatoes were vegetables!

"Importers sued, and eventually the courts were called upon to decide. The unanimous bench delivered the opinion that since tomatoes were generally served at dinner with (or after) the soup, fish or meats, which constitute the principal part of the repast, they are vegetables, unlike fruits which are usually served for dessert."

Tomatoes have other uses as well:

"Place slices of tomatoes on tired, burning feet. Wrap, then elevate for 15-20 minutes. The acidity draws out the burning sensation. For sunburn: Soak tomatoes in buttermilk and apply to skin. Also, a warmed slice of tomato will help draw the infection from a boil.

"A bath of tomato juice will neutralize skunk odor. Garlic and onion odors can be removed from hands with a slice of fresh tomato!

"Tomato juice is also a hangover remedy. Its high fructose content speeds the body's alcohol-burning process.

"For splinters, sprinkle salt on the area, cover with half a cherry tomato, bind with plastic wrap (to prevent a gushy mess), and leave on overnight. By morning, the splinter will pop right out."

Dear Abby: We are the parents of a beautiful - and very bright - son who is 18 months old. Our problem is his grandmother, my mother-in-law.

Although she is capable of speaking perfect English, she deliberately talks to the baby in a foreign language. She says it will be easier for him to learn this second language if he is exposed to it at an early age.

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I agree with that, but I think the baby should learn to speak English first - and after he has mastered the English language, he should be taught a second language.

My husband and I have been having some rather heated arguments about this and would appreciate your opinion.

- No I.D. Please

Dear No. I.D.: Your husband wins this one. According to Margaret Sapir, national director of Berlitz Jr., a language teaching service, the earlier a child is exposed to a foreign language, the easier it will be for him to acquire it. Oddly enough, it will not confuse the child. Children have no difficulty learning two languages at the same time.

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