FRUIT or VEGETABLE: what is the difference?

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Tomato, fruit or vegetable? The question of the difference between these two classes of food is not so simple.

To distinguish a fruit from a vegetable , one must first choose one side: that of the cook or that of the botanist . Both are clearly irreconcilable …

Cooking fruits and vegetables

For the cooking, the difference between fruits and vegetables is quite simple. A fruit is rather sweet and comes to the table usually at the time of dessert. A vegetable is rather salty and often accompanies a dish of meat or fish . As for seafood, let’s forget about them …

In a slightly more precise way (but still unsatisfactory for a botanist), the fruit is the edible organ of flowering plants . The vegetable, meanwhile, is the consumable part of a vegetable plant ; it can be seeds ( lentils , etc.), leaves ( spinach , etc.), roots or tubers ( potato , etc.), stems or shoots ( leek , etc.), bulbs ( onion , etc.) and even … fruit, such as tomato or pepper .

Fruits and vegetables of the botanist

The botanist has a duty to be more precise. The fruit, he explains, comes directly from the pistil of the flowers of the plants. It results from the development of the ovary of the flower and contains seeds (or nuclei). The vegetable is a very particular fruit: the pod of legumes. This family of plants includes beans or beans , for example.

To reconcile these two points of view, we sometimes speak of fruit vegetables, stem vegetables or leafy vegetables.

Fruiting vegetables: tomato, cucumber, eggplant, beans, peppers …

In conclusion, eggplant , cucumber , tomato, pepper or bean can be considered as fruit. Rhubarb and sugar cane can be classified as vegetables!

False fruits: strawberry, pineapple, apple …

The botanist also refers to false fruits: those for the formation of which the ovary is not the only participating tissue. These are, for example , strawberry , pineapple or apple.

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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