Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in New Zealand. Yes, vegetable.

The tomato, although technically a fruit, is recorded for statistical purposes as a vegetable because it is mostly used for savoury foods.

The latest Household Economic Survey conducted by Statistics New Zealand has revealed that New Zealanders spent more on tomatoes ($99 million) than they did on the good old Kiwi staple, the potato ($98 million), in the year to June 30, 2010.

The survey quizzed people living in about 5100 households aged 15 and over about their weekly spending and earnings. Results showed that the average household is spending $15 more a week since the survey was last carried out in 2007, with the average weekly household expenditure for food now at $177.70.

The average household spent $8.80 on fruit and $11.50 on vegetables every week, up 14.4 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively since 2007.

Horticulture New Zealand spokeswoman Leigh Catley said it was positive that more New Zealanders were buying more fruit and vegetables.

Of particular note was the fact that spending on onions had increased, moving from from ninth place in 2007 to sixth last year, with sales at $37 million, something she put down to tight economic times.

"That is possibly a reflection of people doing more home cooking because onions are very much the basis for a lot of meals."

Ms Catley said tomatoes might have inched ahead of potatoes because supplies of spuds were down.

Both tomatoes and potatoes have been affected by the psyllid bug, an aphid-like pest that has destroyed crops nationwide. But because tomatoes were affected earlier, about three years ago, they are recovering faster.

Ms Catley said that while it was always a close-fought battle for the top vegetable spot, it was not so for fruit.

The No 1-selling fruit in New Zealand for each of the last three surveys, in 2004, 2007 and last year, was the banana. New Zealanders bought $142 million of bananas - $40 million more than we spent on any other fresh fruit or vegetable.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said it was "disappointing" to see an imported fruit claiming such a significant portion of the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

"At least the mighty Kiwi apple is our second favourite," he said.

"But the most important information to come out of this survey is it shows New Zealanders are buying more fruit and vegetables, and that's good for the whole country."

Other notable movers in the Statistics New Zealand survey were watermelons, which went up five places to 11th, and blueberries, which featured for the first time in 14th place.