Veggie or Fruit – Not Always a Clear Distinction

Nov 18, 2021 | Information

Fruits are generally sweet, and vegetables are generally savory. The botanical definition of vegetable is almost any edible part of a plant, from flower buds (broccoli) to roots (carrots). Fruit refers to a specific plant part – “a mature ripened ovary, along with the contents of that ovary”(seeds).

Here are eleven “vegetables” that are technically fruits.

  • Avocado comprising a three-layer pericarp that surrounds a single seed. The mesocarp – edible flesh, endocarp that protects the seed and the exocarp, the rind. Since the endocarp is thin, an avocado is also technically a berry.

  • Olives are drupes – and therefore fruit. If you crack open a pit, you’ll see the actual seed of the olive tree.
  • Corn – each corn kernel is an ovary that contains a single seed. These fruits are known as caryopses, or grains. A fruit can also be a grain.
  • Cucumbers are fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. That means pickles are fruit.
  • Zucchinis are also Cucurbitaceae as are acorn squash, butternut squash and all other squash.
  • Pumpkins with rinds, fleshy centers and seed match the botanical definition of fruit and close relative to squash.
  • Okra is the seed filled fruit of a flowering plant in the Malvacaea family.
  • String beans are full pods, casing, and seeds. They are also fruits. If you are talking ONLY about the individual seeds inside – you are just talking about seeds, not fruit.
  • Eggplants belong to the Solanaceae family – sometimes called the “nightshade family”. Potatoes and tomatoes also fall into this family. Potatoes are tubers – thus true vegetables. Eggplants are seed bearing fleshy fruits that grow from the flowers of the Solanum melongena plant.
  • Peppers – all peppers are members of the Solanaceae family as well. No matter how mild or hot they are courtesy of capsaicin – they are still technically a fruit.
  • Tomatoes – are the most debated members of the Solanaceae family. The fruit vs.vegetable debate has carried on for centuries. In 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were vegetables in a case of high import taxes on vegetables.