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
But it isn't quite clear.
I know that apples, oranges, bananas, and tomatoes are
I *think* that lettuce, spinach, broccoli, couliflower
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
Can anyone tell me the plain-english rule on this?
Thanks in advance...
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.
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.
Even though you have received a very thorough answer, let me try a short
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.
With some vegetables, the part you eat is the fruit. (tomatoes)
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
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.
A L B E R T A Alfred Falk firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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. :-)
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)?
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.
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
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
For me, this thread is closed. Have fun.
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.
|im |yler http://timtyler.org/ email@example.com Remove lock to reply.
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
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