Is it a Fruit or Vegetable?
Is it a fruit or vegetable? What makes a fruit a fruit and what makes a vegetable a vegetable.
Fruits: A fruit is actually the sweet, ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant. In botany, a fruit is the ripened ovary together with the seeds of a flowering plant. In cuisine, when discussing fruit as food, the term usually refers to just those plant fruits that are sweet and fleshy, such as plums and oranges. However, a great many common vegetables, as well as nuts and grains, are the fruit of the plant species they come from. Most fruits are sweet because they contain fructose, a simple sugar, while most vegetables are less sweet because they have much less fructose. By these definitions, pumpkins, cucumbers, avocadoes are fruits, botanically speaking. A nut is therefore “a dry, one-seeded, usually oily fruit.”
Vegetables: A vegetable, is an herbaceous plant cultivated for an edible part (seeds, roots, stems, leaves, bulbs, tubers, or nonsweet fruits). Therefore, a fruit could be a vegetable, but a vegetable could not be a fruit. The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. “Vegetable is a culinary term. Its definition has no scientific value and is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. All parts of herbaceous plants eaten as food by humans, whole or in part, are generally considered vegetables. Mushrooms, though belonging to the biological kingdom, fungi, are also commonly considered vegetables…Since ‘vegetable’ is not a botanical term, there is no contradiction in referring to a plant part as a fruit while also being considered a vegetable.
No one terminology really fits the enormous variety that is found among plant fruits. Botanical terminology for fruits is inexact and will remain so.” The confusion about ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’ arises because of the differences in usage between scientists and cooks. In Brazil the avocado is traditionally consumed with sugar as a dessert or in milk shakes, and hence regarded as a fruit; whereas in other countries (including Mexico and the United States) it is used in salads and dips, and hence considered a vegetable.
At the grocery store: In everyday, grocery-store, culinary language, the words “fruit” and “vegetable” are mutually exclusive; plant products that are called fruits are hardly ever classified as vegetables, and vice versa.
So, is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? If you are speaking in a botanical, scientific context, a tomato is definitely a FRUIT. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless). If you are speaking in culinary terms, it can be called VEGETABLES.
Case solved, right? Not quite. In 1983, the United States Supreme Court entered into this fascinating debate and gave a legal verdict on whether a tomato should be classified as a vegetable or a fruit. The court ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is correctly identified as, and thus taxed as, a vegetable, for the purposes of the 1883 Tariff Act on imported produce. The court did acknowledge, however, that, botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit. So, there you have an amazing nutrition fact. A tomato is a fruit AND a vegetable. A pumpkin is a fruit AND a vegetable. The age-old question of “Is it a fruit or vegetable?” has been resolved.
As a matter of Interest: Is a Banana a fruit or an herb?
Both. A banana (the yellow thing you peel and eat) is undoubtedly a fruit (containing the seeds of the plant) though since commercially grown banana plants are sterile. The seeds are reduced to little specks. However, the banana plant, though it is called a banana-tree in popular usage is technically regarded as an herbaceous plant (or herb), not a tree, because the stem does not contain true woody tissue.
Next, we will examine “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” (We all know it was the egg first, right?)