It will be obvious to everyone that a banana is fruit and a cauliflower is vegetable. Unfortunately, it is not always so clear… In this article, we will discuss the question of when something can be called a vegetable and when something can be called a fruit. We will do this by asking three questions:
What is fruit?
For fruit there is a clear botanical definition: the edible fruit of a plant.
In the kitchen, however, it is a lot less clear. For example, beans, tomatoes, corn, zucchini and peppers are also edible fruits. But who would call that fruit?
In everyday language, fruit is perhaps better described as: edible fruits that are often eaten raw and are usually sweet. This quickly brings you to fruits such as apples, bananas, raspberries, peaches, melons and strawberries, which most people will instinctively see as fruits and definitely not as vegetables.
What is a vegetable?
So it’s pretty clear exactly what fruit is. This brings us to the question that actually makes it most clear why the difference between fruit and vegetables is so vague: what is a vegetable anyway?
For starters, there is no botanical definition. “Vegetable” is not a special part of the plant. And in everyday language, by vegetable we really just mean the edible parts of the plant (which are not fruits). That doesn’t really help to clarify the difference between what is vegetable or fruit.
Specifically, the difference between vegetables and fruits?
Fruit, as far as we are concerned, is an edible, sweet fruit, which (usually) does not need to be cooked, or where that is even undesirable. Vegetables to us are a part of the plant that is usually eaten cooked. Edible mushrooms are also vegetables to us.
Some examples: apple, banana and strawberry are fruits to us. Carrots, stewing pears, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, tomatoes, spinach and potatoes are vegetables. We think that by doing this we are using a clear distinction between vegetables and fruits.