Technical Difference - Fruit vs Vegetable

Hi, Everybody,
While this might sound absurdly obvious, this question is *not* a troll.
Technically speaking, what is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?
I looked it up at
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=fruit
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=vegetable
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=gourd
But it isn't quite clear.
I know that apples, oranges, bananas, and tomatoes are considered fruits.
I *think* that lettuce, spinach, broccoli, couliflower are vegetables.
But what about capsicum (bell pepper), courgettes/zucchini, or cucumbers? I always thought that they were vegetables, but they have seeds in them. Are they technically fruit? What distinguishes a gourd?
Can anyone tell me the plain-english rule on this?
Thanks in advance...
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On Fri, 15 Oct 2004 05:22:32 UTC, Antipodean Bucket Farmer

You are right about that. However, if you are really as confused as you say:

Anything that is not an animal or a mineral must be a vegetable. The vegetable is the entire plant, from roots to blossom and fruit (in the case of flowering plants). In the realm of microorganisms, it is not always clear what is an animal and what is a vegetable, so the distinction breaks down, but I don't think that is what the question is about. The fruit is part of the reproductive apparatus of flowering plants, and contains the seeds. It should not be hard for most people to see what is the fruit, and what is the rest of the vegetable. All that is botanical definition. Inasmuch as this group is devoted to gardening, it is the governing definition.
Culinary definition is much more shaky, for obvious reasons. For the most part, a botanical "fruit" is not a culinary "fruit" unless you can make a dessert around it. Thus the fruits of eggplant, capsicum, tomato are not culinary "fruits" because they aren't sweet; yet the fruit of the avocado is a culinary "fruit", perhaps because that is so obvious, even to cooks. The fruits of walnut trees and oaks aren't culinary "fruits" because of the arbitrary nature of culinary definition. For more information on culinary definitions, post your question on a group concerned with cooking.

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On 15 Oct 2004 08:28:38 GMT in

mmmmm.... avocado pudding....
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Terribly sorry. I was focussed on trying to relate seriously to a query that even the questioner knew was troll-like. I did remember, however, to hedge that sentence with "for the most part". And, for the most part, people seem to understood that.
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Antipodean Bucket Farmer wrote:

Even though you have received a very thorough answer, let me try a short version:
Between fruit and vegetable, it isn't either/or because most vegetables produce some sort of fruit in their life cycle if you grow them to maturity. With some vegetables, the part you eat is the root. (carrots) With some vegetables, the part you eat is the leaves. (spinach) With some vegetables, the part you eat is the seeds. (corn) With some vegetables, the part you eat is the developing flower head. (broccoli) With some vegetables, the part you eat is the fruit. (tomatoes) etc. etc.
Steve
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You've already got some good answers on this, but I'll add my own 2 cents. The "problem" arises because we have two different usage systems: 1. "ordinary English", where the distinction between f & v has mostly to do with how we use the material, rather than plant physiology. 2. "Scientific botanical English" where the distinction between f & v is strictly based on plant physiology.
Sometimes the two coincide, sometimes they don't. The conflict "is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?" is artificial.
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wrote:

I think Alfred has the best answer. This topic usually comes up when discussing the tomato as a vegetable, which has to do with the wording of certain (import?) regs in the US. The tomato was declared a vegetable (as opposed to a fruit) for regulatory purposes.
As far as plants go, the distinction doesn't mean a great deal. It's mainly a convenience for people. Almost any difference one could think of (annual vs. perennial) has exceptions. I went through the same thing with 'spice' vs. 'herb.' The best rule I found was that spices are produced in semi- or tropical climates, while herbs are grown in temperate regions.
One might say that fruits are vegetables with a high sugar content, but I'm sure there are exceptions both ways to this, too. And of course, the individual tomato or pepper or cucumber is the 'fruit' of its plant. Don't worry about it. :-)
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Dunno if it's very technical - but:
``Definition of fruit and vegetable''
- http://www.comevisit.com/chuckali/definition /
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But it's incorrect, because it confuses botanical and culinary definitions: it says a vegetable is something that is grown to eat, but is not a fruit. That he has to go out of his way to state explicitly that rhubarb is not a fruit even though you can make pies from it should tell you a lot.
Why is it difficult to understand that a vegetable is something that is neither animal nor mineral, and a fruit is a specific part of a flowering plant that contains the seed(s)?
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Stan Goodman wrote:

It seems so simple doesn't it? I've explained it to people face to face, only to get a blank stare back from them. I guess it's hard for some to turn their mind around to botany when they have only been thinking about cooking for so long.
Steve
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Obviously, these are not botanical definitions.

Because of mushrooms and bacteria ;-)

Because of beans, strawberries and cashew apples ;-)
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I'm not sure how to understand your answers below, so (at the risk of being accused of not having a sense of humor, I do it straight:

Mushrooms are certainly vegetables: they are life, so they aren't mineral; they aren't animal. What's left? With microorganisms, it's my understanding that the line between vegetable and not-vegetable is unclear, but I don't think that's what we are talking about. The fact is that I have no clue what that comment is talking about.

Beans, strawberries, and cashews are all flowering plants. Again, I have no idea whatever what you mean. "Flowering plant" is a botanical category. It has nothing to do with whether a flower is prominent or nearly invisible, or whether it is important in the florist trade. Mushrooms and bacteria, for example, are NOT flowering plants.
The definition is really so simple that one is tempted to wonder why people want to complicate it, and why they think complication is a key to clarification.
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Briefly:
Eubacteria, Archaea, Protists, Fungi - and possibly viruses (as well as plants).
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This kind of obfuscation borders on the malicious. The thread started with a query from someone who was confused about whether he should call e.g. tomatoes vegetables or fruits. The answer was pretty straightforward. You can surround it with fog as much as you want.
Fungi (e.g.) are plants, but not Flowering Plants. I covered that. I pointed out that the animal/vegetable boundary is fuzzy at the level of microorganisms.
For me, this thread is closed. Have fun.
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Stan Goodman wrote:

LOFL.
Technical difference - Abbott vs Costello
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Your problem is that you don't know - but don't know that you don't know :-(
To repeat what I already advised you, *none* of the members of the kingdoms Eubacteria, Archaea, Protists, Fungi are vegetables.
That's because all vegetables are plants - by definition - and plants are a whole different kingdom - the kingdom Plantae.
I recommend you research the issue - at least a little bit - before you expound on the subject in public any further.
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On 16 Oct 2004 23:06:03 GMT, "Stan Goodman"

The problem is the question. It's like saying "technically speaking, what's the difference between a long story and a novel?" There IS no technical definition. When the gov't recommends 8 servings of "fruits and vegetables" per day, they're not talking taxonomy, but general perceptions. It might more specifically be 8 servings of "foods produced by plants." But then some would quibble about sugar, or vegetable oil.
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