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What is the difference between fruit and vegetables?

06.08.2019  /  Reading time: 3 minutes

Everyone knows the smart aleck who says things like: "Strawberries aren't really berries at all, they're fruits!" or "So, technically, peppers aren't really vegetables, they're fruits! Most people are probably thinking "What a smartass" - this article is not for them. But if you're like me and want to know everything there is to know about the world of botany, then you've come to the right place! Because today, I'm going to let you in on the secret of the differences between fruits and vegetables.

This article contains:

  1. A fundamental difference: fruit vs. vegetables
  2. A small but subtle difference: fruit vs. fruit
  3. Different types of fruit

There are various definitions of fruits and vegetables, some of which are contradictory. This post is about the botanical definitions. Because botany is the science of plants, let's take a look at what botany has to say about fruits and vegetables.

A fundamental difference: fruit vs. vegetables

A fruit is a flower in the state of seed maturation. It is therefore the sexual reproductive organ of a plant. When the seeds inside are able to germinate and form a new plant, the fruit is ripe in the botanical sense.
Vegetables, on the other hand, are all those parts of the plant that are eaten raw or cooked by humans but are not used by the plant for sexual reproduction. These can be leaves, such as spinach, stems, such as celery stalks, roots, such as carrots, or tubers, such as kohlrabi.

A small but subtle difference: fruit vs. fruit

There are many different subdivisions of fruit. The most common subdivision classifies all fruits that can be eaten fresh and have a sweet taste as fruits. Anything that requires preparation is a fruit or a fruit vegetable. This is where the definition gets a little vague. Peppers are probably the best example. It can be eaten raw and tastes slightly sweet. However, it is usually used cooked in savory dishes or raw in salads.

Different types of fruit

Botanists speak of a berry when the fruit's skin is fleshy or juicy in the broadest sense, that is, when there is pulp. Examples of such "botanical berries" are currants and bell peppers. If the inner part of the fruit skin - the so-called "endocarp" - is woody, it is a stone fruit. Classic drupes are cherries, peaches, and plums. If the entire shell of the fruit is lignified, it is called a nut in botany, such as the hazelnut. Aggregate fruits are when several small individual fruits have grown together to form one large fruit. For example, the raspberry is an aggregate stone fruit.

Botany is like its own language, with its own vocabulary. I hope I've introduced you to a few of them in this text, and that you've picked up a few fun facts and clever jokes for your next garden fence conversation with your neighbor! And let's face it: all these definitions are pretty irrelevant - the main thing is that the plants grow and the harvest tastes good. The intuitive understanding we have of fruits and vegetables is usually enough: if it's savory, it's a vegetable; if it's sweet, it's a fruit.


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Jonas

Jonas studied agricultural biology. He discovered his passion for plants and gardening through an internship at a permaculture NGO. Since then, he has been gardening on his balcony and in community gardens.

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