Is it a fruit or a vegetable?  The explanation to never make a mistake again

The botanical difference

Let's first put the church in the middle of the village, this classification between fruit and vegetable has – first of all – nothing to do with the use of products in cooking, between salty and sweet. This is a botanical difference, since these products come from different parts of the plant.

The fruits

Botanically speaking, “fruit” is the product of a flowering plant. This is the organ of the plant which acts as a shell for the seeds, pips, or cores, and whose flesh is edible. This organ appears thanks to pollination, when the pistil, the reproductive organ of the plant, is fertilized. The fruit therefore follows the flower, and as a result, must in most cases contain seeds (even if the banana, for example, does not have them, but not in its wild version).

There are also some fake fruit like strawberries, apples, or raspberries, which do not follow exactly the same transformation pattern. And for the pineapple or the fig, it's something else again, we talk about inflorescence. For example, the fig that we eat contains unisexual flowers within it. As they are trapped inside the fig, you have to wait for the intervention of a liliputian wasp to see the female fig flowers be fertilized. In short, the fruit does not come after the flower, but contains the flower from the start.

The vegetables

Vegetables are the edible part of a vegetable plant. It may be leaves like salad, cabbage, spinach; of roots or tubers like carrots, potatoes, radishes, salsify; of bulbs like onions and shallots; of germs with soy; of stems or shoots modeled on asparagus, fennel, or leek; or seeds like legumes.

The gastronomic difference

When it comes to cooking, it’s simpler and more complicated at the same time! By use, we classified fruits according to their use as sweet, and vegetables as salty. Point. It was simpler, let's face it.

But botany mixed with gastronomic use, blurred the boundaries, and more specific terms flourished!

For certain products, we name them with their consumption first, then their family and botanical classification: thus we speak of fruit-vegetable for the zucchini and tomato; leafy vegetable for the spinach; root vegetable for beets; Or stem vegetable for the leek. For the last three, it is mainly more specific information about the part of the plant used.

The case of rhubarb: it too can be related to the genus fruit-vegetableeven if in truth, if we follow the logic of the other names, we should say fruit-vegetable. In fact, we cook it like a fruitmainly as a dessert, but it is a vegetable in the botanical sense. But let's not get any more knots in our brains, the story is already complex.

The point of view of the law

To add a little spice to this puzzle, certain products have also been categorized as “vegetable” for tomatoes or “fruit” for rhubarb, in relation to imports.

The tomato, for example, became a “vegetable” in 1893 following a decision by the United States Supreme Court following the Nix affair. V. Hedden, in relation to the customs law of March 3, 1883, which imposed taxes on vegetable imports, but not on fruit imports. Thus, the essential food for any caprese salad has become a “vegetable” and a source of taxes at the same time. Two birds with one stone.

On the side of the New York Customs Department, it was rhubarb which was qualified as a “fruit” in 1947.

Same puzzle with the carrot. A vegetable obviously from a botanical and gastronomic point of view (most of the time, we will never forget the divine carrot cake). But to allow the terminology of “carrot jam”, a Portuguese specialty, Europe offers it the classification as “fruit” since according to the European Union, only fruits can serve as a base for jams, jellies, and marmalades. Indeed “Products made from other vegetables, stems, roots, or leaves than those mentioned above (Definition of fruits or assimilated to fruits: tomatoes, rhubarb, carrots, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, watermelon, sweet potato, editor's note) are not covered by the application of Decree No. 85-872 of August 14, 1985 and cannot use the names presented below*, namely the names of “jams, jellies, and marmalades”. The carrot had to be considered a fruit in the eyes of the law, and it succeeded. Impossible is not carrot!

According to this same text, the sweet potato – a tuberous root and therefore a root vegetable in the botanical sense – is also a fruit from the point of view of the law.

Here's a list to shine at your next dinner party.

These are fruits:

  • Olive
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Green bean
  • Bell pepper
  • Pepper
  • Lawyer
  • Squash
  • Yam

It's a vegetable:

  • Rhubarb

Who knows, today cabbage is a vegetable, but when will it be in 2060? In summary, fruit or vegetable, the truth is elsewhere, the important thing is that it is good!


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