Everyone knows him, the wise guy who says such things as, “The strawberry is actually not a berry at all, but a gathering fruit!” or “So technically speaking, peppers are not a vegetable at all, but a fruit!”. Most people are probably thinking to themselves “What a smartass” – this article is not for them. But if you’re like me and want to know all about the world of botany, then you’ve come to the right place! Because today I want to let you in on the smarty-pants secret knowledge about the differences between fruits, vegetables, and fruits.
There are various definitions of fruits and vegetables, some of which are contradictory. In this post, it should be about the botanical definitions. Because we think science and plants are awesome. And because botany is the science of plants, let’s take a look at what botany has to say about fruits and vegetables.
A basic difference: fruit vs. vegetable
A fruit is a flower in the state of seed maturity. Thus, it is the sexual reproductive organs of a plant. When the seeds inside are able to resprout and form a new plant, the fruit is mature in the botanical sense.
Vegetables, on the other hand, are all those plant parts that are consumed raw or cooked by humans, but which do not serve the plant for sexual reproduction. These can be leaves as in the case of spinach, stems as in the case of celery, roots as in the case of carrots, or shoot tubers as in the case of kohlrabi.
A small but subtle difference:
Within fruits, there are again many different subdivisions. The most common subdivision classifies all fruits that can be eaten fresh and have a sweet taste as fruit. Everything that has to be prepared first is a fruit or a fruit vegetable. This is where the definition gets fuzzy in places. The bell bell pepper is probably the best example here. It is edible raw and also tastes slightly sweet. However, it is mostly used cooked in savory dishes or raw in salads.
Different types of fruit
When the fruit skin is fleshy or juicy in the broadest sense, that is, there is a pulp, botanists refer to it as a berry. Such a “botanical berry” is, for example, the currant or the bell pepper. If the inner part of the fruit shell – the so-called “endocarp” – is woody, it is a drupe. Classical stone fruits are, for example, the cherry, the peach or the plum. If the entire fruit shell is woody, it is referred to in botany as a nut, as in the case of the hazelnut, for example. Collective fruit is when several small individual fruits have grown together to form one large fruit. The raspberry, for example, is a aggregate fruit.
Botany is like a language of its own, with its own vocabulary. I hope I was able to introduce you to some of them in this text and that you now have a few fun facts and smart alecks in store for the next garden fence conversation with your neighbor! And let’s be honest: Actually, all these definitions are rather irrelevant – the main thing is that the plants grow and the harvest tastes good. Because mostly the intuitive understanding that we have of fruit and vegetables is completely sufficient: If it is eaten savory it is vegetable, if it is rather sweet it is fruit.