Did you know that rice is a fruit? Also, did you know that a tomato is a fruit and a vegetable? Our perception of what is a fruit and what is a vegetable is something that we do not usually give too much thought, but if you think about it for a bit, you will realize that there are a ton of loopholes, grey areas, and unanswered questions regarding the nature of vegetables and fruit.
To start off, let’s take a look at the term “vegetable”, a term that has no scientific meaning and is only used to describe certain foods that are produced by plants. According to Merriam Webster’s definition of a vegetable, we can pretty much describe any edible part of a plant as a vegetable. This would mean that fruits (which are also edible parts of plants) can also be classified as vegetables, but according to common sense, if something is not sweet then it cannot be a fruit.
The best way to differentiate between the two can be this; if it grows on a plant but is no sweet then it’s a vegetable, and if it is sweet then it is a fruit.
Speaking of fruit, unlike the word “vegetable”, fruit is actually a scientific term, it is use by botanists to describe a structure that is formed on flowering plants after they have undergone fertilization. Basically, every fruit was once a flower, and after it underwent fertilization, it became a fruit.
Also, according to the botanical definition of the word fruit, any edible plant part that consists of seeds can be referred to as a fruit, and this is where things start getting tricky since there are a number of non-sweet edible plant structures that come with seeds as well. Tomatoes for example, have seeds in them, making them a type of fruit, but their lack of sweetness also qualifies them for being a vegetable. If you are beginning think that there is something seriously wrong with our classification system for fruits and vegetables then you should try thinking along the line that certain edible plant parts can be fruits and vegetables at the same time.
So the time someone tries to be a smartass and reprimands you for calling a tomato a vegetable, you can take their pompous attitude and shove it right up their nose by telling them that a tomato is both.
There are a lot of vegetables that qualify as fruits, some of the more obvious one’s being pumpkins, eggplants, and bell peppers, but the list of vege-fruits includes some more bizarre entries as well. For instance, corn qualifies as a fruit, so does grain, peas, and beans since all of these edible plant parts have seeds in them, even nuts are a fruit since they grow from fruit like structures that form on their respective trees.
Hopefully you will now be able to make a clearer distinction between what is a fruit and what is a vegetable (and what is both) from now on.