Many of us believe that tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are vegetables. But technically speaking, all of them are fruits. The only difference is that they are used as vegetables. Then, what is the difference between fruits and vegetables? The debate of fruit vs. vegetable has been going on for a long time, with botanists strongly demanding the status of fruits for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and many more, which are usually classified as vegetables in the culinary sense. In order to understand the difference between fruits and vegetables, we must have a basic understanding about them.
Fruits and Vegetables - Botanical and Culinary Definition
Do you know why oranges and watermelon are classified as fruits? Why potatoes, celery, or cabbage are sorted out as vegetables? There has to be some scientific reason behind this classification, which has been confusing people for ages. The difference between fruits and vegetables lies in their scientific definition, which is used to identify them. Let us take a look at the definition of both, which can be useful in understanding the classification.
A fruit is deemed to be a sweet and fleshy plant product, which includes apples, oranges, plums, pineapples, etc. In the botanical sense, a fruit is defined as the ripened ovary of a flowering plant and contains seeds. In most cases, the ripened ovaries along with their surrounding tissues are called fruits, which are a means of dissemination of seeds.
The dissemination is facilitated by consumption of fruits by animals and birds, as most of the fruits are sweet and contain fleshy, edible parts. As far as the culinary definition is concerned, fruits are more sweet or tart. They are mainly used as desserts, snacks or as juices.
There is no botanical definition for vegetables. In general, a vegetable is defined as the edible part of a plant, which does not include the ovary. In other words, vegetables are the vegetative parts of the plant. The edible, ripe ovary with seeds comes under the definition of fruits, and other edible parts of a plant are considered vegetables.
The 'vegetable' is a collective term used to denote all parts of herbaceous plants, which are eaten by human beings as food. It includes the leaves as in the case of cabbage, the roots as in carrots and beets, the bulbs as in garlic, the flowers as in broccoli, and the stems as in asparagus. For culinary uses, vegetables are those edible plant parts that are less sweet and sometimes savory too. Unlike fruits, vegetables are mainly used as a part of the main dish.
Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables
What is the factor that differentiates a fruit from a vegetable? The major difference is that most of the fruits contain seeds, which are capable of developing into new plants, and vegetables lack seeds (there are exceptions). Even though some vegetables are used in plant reproduction, they are not considered fruits.
In short, a fruit is the matured ovary of a plant and contains seeds, whereas a vegetable can be any of the edible part of a plant, other than the ovary. However, there are certain vegetables that contain seeds and there are some fruits that lack seeds. So there are exceptions to this general rule.
Vegetables that are Technically Fruits
Hence, it can be said that presence of seeds is one of the factors that differentiate fruits from vegetables. This is the reason for classifying tomatoes and cucumbers as fruits, even though they are used as vegetables. If you apply the botanical meaning, some of the most commonly used vegetables would come under the list of fruits. Such 'technical' fruits include avocados, squashes, olives, pea pods, zucchini, pumpkins, and peppers. Even nuts and grains are classified as fruits. In case of nuts, the fleshy outer covering is discarded and the seeds are consumed, where grains are big seeds that are used for consumption.
To conclude, fruits are ripened ovaries of a plant and contain seeds. Vegetables are edible parts of a plant, other than fruits. It can be said that, while a fruit could be a vegetable (as in the case of tomatoes), a vegetable could not be a fruit. Most of the fruits contain a simple sugar called fructose, which gives the sweet taste, but vegetables have less amounts of fructose. The sweetness of the fruits attract animals and birds to consume them, and thereby disperse the seeds. So leave the debate of fruit versus vegetable, and include lots of them in your daily diet to lead a healthy life.