Think you can tell a fruit from a vegetable?
In the world of food, there are many plants most people consider vegetables that are actually fruits, botanically speaking.
The most famous example is probably the tomato. Its status as a fruit or a vegetable was so contentious that in 1893 the Supreme Court had to weigh in and settle the issue once and for all.
What it comes down to isn’t sweetness, but seeds. “Any thing that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit,” Merriam-Webster dictionary wrote.
So fruit isn’t part of the plant itself, but a reproductive part growing from the plant. “The thing a tomato plant produces isn’t a part of the plant itself, any more than the egg a chicken lays is part of the chicken,” the dictionary said. When we eat vegetables, on the other hand, we’re eating the plant itself or some of its parts, like roots, stems, or leaves.
Tomatoes are far from the only example of common vegetables that are actually fruits. Read on to see 14 foods you’ve been misunderstanding this whole time.
Even though tomatoes are technically a fruit, it doesn’t stop people from treating it and most of the other foods on this list as a vegetable.
It’s that logic that prompted the Supreme Court to declare in 1893 that tomatoes should be taxed like other vegetables.
Here’s how Justice Horace Gray summed up the argument:
“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas,” Gray wrote in the court’s opinion.
“But in the common language of the people … all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”
Every kind of pepper, from the bell pepper to the jalapeño, fits the bill as a fruit and not a vegetable.
- Aaron Burden / Unsplash
Anyone who’s carved a jack-o-lantern for Halloween knows that pumpkins are full of seeds. Pumpkins and all other gourds are technically fruits, not vegetables.
- Flickr / Stacey Spensley
Speaking of gourds, cucumbers are an unexpected member of that family, too. Will you ever look at pickles the same way again?
- Flickr / Kari Söderholm
Technically, peas aren’t the fruit here, but the pods are. That’s because they contain the seeds – the peas – that the plant uses to reproduce.
- whole foods facebook
That’s right, one of America’s favorite vegetables is really a fruit in disguise.
- Flickr Creative Commons/Ivanatman
Not only are eggplants fruits, they’re technically classified as a berry.
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, okra is one of the most nutritious fruits out there.
You probably don’t think of olives as a fruit, but that’s exactly what they are. Specifically, they’re considered a stone fruit, like peaches, mangoes, and dates.
- Flickr / threelayercake
Although it doesn’t seem like a fruit, avocados are actually single-seeded berries.
- Thomson Reuters
Corn is treated like a grain in agriculture and like a vegetable in the kitchen. But scientifically, neither of those categories are right.
Those kernels are the seeds that corn plants use to reproduce, so that qualifies corn as a dry fruit.
Zucchinis are a member of the gourd family, meaning just like cucumbers and pumpkins, they’re considered a type of berry.
Just like peas, beans are a member of the legume family – they’re seeds that come in pods, and that makes them fruit.
Another common legume is chickpeas or garbanzo beans. We usually don’t see them inside their pods, but chickpeas are classified the same way as peas and beans.