Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Science Byte

My mind has been on fruit lately, as evidenced by yesterday's post. Nothing obsessive or anything, but it all started a month or so ago when I was watching some sit-com on TV. There was a bit on how a tomato is actually a fruit which got me thinking...
What exactly is the definition of a fruit? What about a vegetable?

Obviously, I immediately googled it. Don't you do that? I love how I have answers at my fingertips (at least when I'm at home)! Here's what I learned:
There's no such thing as a vegetable. At least in botanical terms. Culinarily speaking (yes I totally made up that word!), it's obviously still completely valid. Usually, vegetables are produce that are used for savory dishes, or aren't as sweet as their so-called fruit relatives. Roots, leaves & stems are obvious vegetables though there are some exceptions, like rhubarb. Moreover, tons of so-called vegetables are actually fruit. Here's just a short list:
  • corn
  • peppers
  • green beans & peas
  • cucumber
  • squash
  • broccoli (though we eat this as an immature fruit, before it flowers) & cauliflower
A fruit is basically the part of the plant that holds the seeds. So technically, each corn kernel is a fruit. So are cereal grains - but here the fleshy part is so diminished that wheat & other grains are often classified as edible seeds. Corn, rice & nuts can also be considered in this way.
Things get a bit more complicated when you consider aggregate fruit. These are fruit that are formed by clusters of fruitlets, each containing a seed. These fruitlets are most obvious in blackberries, raspberries & corn. Strawberries are also aggregate fruit - actually, an aggregate-accessory fruit. The red part of the strawberry is an accessory fruit since the seeds are individual fruit - the "seed" you see is the hard, dry skin encasing the seed inside.

Lastly, there are multiple fruits where many flowers cluster together to form a single fruit. Examples include pineapple, figs & cauliflower.
However, I think it's safe to say that we'll be leaving these technical definitions to the botanists. I know I'll still be referring to my peppers & tomatoes as veggies!


Mattos said...

very interesting

The Belly Dancer said...

I love Pomegranate! And eating green tomatoes too lol. My mouth is watering!!!