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Although you may be convinced that you know which plants belong to the group of fruits and which to the group of vegetables, the main difference between them is not so simple and does not concern only the appearance, color and taste. Are you sure you know what vegetables are and what fruits are? Is it the red, juicy and sweet strawberry you like to eat fruit or does it belong to another group? What about peas? Although a bit sweet, it surely belongs to all other vegetables? I believe you will be fooled by some.
The difference depends on whether you are a botanist or a chef. Specifically, botanists have a slightly different definition of fruits and vegetables, and although for most vegetables and fruits the division is clear, there are some that are misleading, because although by all standards some plants belong to vegetables, they are actually fruits.
Botanists and chefs have a divided opinion
Botanists have a clear definition of fruits and vegetables. The main difference between fruits and vegetables is that the vegetables originate from annual plants and the fruit belongs to the group of perennials. To put it simply, vegetable crops are planted again each year, while fruit once planted we can enjoy it for many years. We also consume vegetables by eating their leaves, stems, tubers, roots, while in the fruit we enjoy exclusively their fruits, which are derived from the fertilized flower or from the seed.
And there are fruits and vegetables that do not differ only in the aforementioned standards. Not only that, but it cannot be revealed by color, taste or its application. There are fruits that according to botany are actually vegetables and vegetables that are fruits. Sounds a little complicated?
Some foods on the botanical side are fruits, although they do not have the typical appearance or taste of fruits, and chefs will, therefore, classify them as vegetables. These are, for example, tomatoes and peppers that most consider vegetables, but they are actually fruit trees!
Gastronomy has slightly different benchmarks as to what belongs to fruits and what to vegetables. According to them, vegetables are all that is less sweet or bitter, that is, everything that can be served as part of the main course. Fruit, on the other hand, is exclusively what can be part of a dessert, therefore anything that is sweet or slightly acidic.
Tomato is a vegetable though?
The war for the distinction between vegetables and fruits has been going on for years, and it is interesting to note that in 1887 the US Supreme Court, which then declared tomatoes to be vegetables, tried to resolve it, all with the aim of taxing it at a higher tax rate than fruit.
There are plants that we cannot easily classify as fruits or vegetables, and some of them are zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and pumpkin. Although we grow them as annual plants, they all have edible fruits, which means they are actually fruit trees? And melons and watermelons, which we are sure are fruit trees, belong to annual plants! The only exception is the olive, which is grown as a perennial plant and as such belongs to the group of fruits.
Traders trust chefs
Looking at the declarations and shelves in the shops, we can conclude that everything is subordinated to the thinking of the chefs. For example, cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes can be found on shelves with other vegetables.
The reason is that when cooking it does not matter what kind and classification of foods they belong to, what part of the plant we consume and how it evolved, but it is important to find the foods on the shelves that we are convinced belong there, because of the taste.
Those plants that are used to prepare the main and salty dishes are on the side of vegetables, and what is sweet in taste and preparing for dessert is on the side of fruits.
List of fruits that are actually vegetables and vegetables that are fruits
Now that you have learned the main difference between fruits and vegetables, but also that there are some exceptions, below we bring a list of vegetables that are not actually vegetables but fruits.
Vegetables that are fruits
For lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli we are sure it is a vegetable. And what about avocado, pumpkin or eggplant? Are they also vegetables or maybe they still belong to a group of fruit trees. Here’s what vegetables are actually fruits!
The most common misconception happens with tomatoes. Although nice red, round and juicy and a bit sweet, no one would ever classify it as a fruit! It is used exclusively in salty foods, but actually belongs to the fruit group!
Avocados boast a somewhat neutral or even flaky taste, which is why it is one of the foods that can be easily transformed to our liking. It will work well as a side dish for meat and fish dishes or as a salad ingredient, but when considered botanically, it belongs to the fruit group.
It has no sweet taste and it is green color, it would never associate us with sweet fruit. But since it contains seeds, it belongs to the fruit group!
Zucchini looks very similar to a cucumber, so most will conclude that it belongs to a group of vegetables. But the seeds found in the fruit itself are classifying it into fruits.
Although a bit sweet, who would say this green legume is actually a fruit? Peas grow from a flower after all its petals have fallen off and are among all other fruits!
Although it is most commonly used as an ingredient in salads, pizzas or meat plates, and in the form of salad spice oils, the olive tree is actually a perennial tree and belongs to the fruit group.
Because there are seeds inside the squash, this large herb from which delicious cream soups or purees can be prepared, actually belongs to the fruit!
The okra is usually prepared as a delicious stew or side dish with a variety of roasts. But there are seeds inside the okra, so it is actually a fruit. Apart from the seeds, okra pods sprout from the flowers, which is just further proof that it is a fruit.
It enhances the taste of sauces, salads, and soups and that is why we are sure it belongs to vegetables. Well, we’re wrong! Although you probably would never use pepper as a cake or cookie ingredient, it is botanically a fruit.
Its taste is bitter and it is used for the preparation of main salty dishes, so we would probably conclude that it is a vegetable. But inside the eggplant, there are seeds that bring it back to the fruit group.
Although it has been prized as a vegetable since the 15th century from when it has been prepared as part of a number of main courses, this plant is actually a botanical member of a group of flowers. Namely, the artichoke pieces that are being prepared for eating are actually its flower heads and stems.
Fruits that are vegetables
For banana, raspberry, apricot, and peach are we sure it’s the fruit, and what about watermelon or strawberry? Even though you would swear they were fruit trees, you would be fooled. Here’s what goes into the vegetable group though.
Juicy and sweet, beautiful yellow or orange, no one would classify it as a vegetable. But although it is most commonly eaten as a part of fruit salads and is an ingredient in many sweets, melon is a one year plant and thus belongs to vegetables.
Watermelon is most commonly misled because no one can associate it with vegetables. Alluring red, sweet and watery, it is a real refreshment in the summer months and is usually eaten alone as a dessert. But watermelon is an annual plant like other vegetable gardens, so it cannot be fruit.
Strawberry is a complicated herb because it is difficult to classify it in fruits but also in vegetables. It is a thick bloom found on the stem, and although the nutritional values, appearance, and application suggest that the strawberry is a fruit, it is not so.
What is common to fruits and vegetables?
Whatever division you decide on, one thing is clear. Both vegetables and fruits belong to the group of healthy foods, low in calories, with almost negligible fat and high in fiber. They are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The only difference is their sugar content. Most fruits and vegetables have in common that fruit has more sugar. The only exception is starchy vegetables like beets and potatoes that contain slightly higher amounts of sugar.
Finally, we can conclude that there is not a very clear distinction between individual fruits and vegetables. That is, some plants just aren’t the rule. Because of the way we eat them or because of their taste, we put them in one group, although by all other botanical and biological characteristics they belong to another.