Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Is a Tomato Fruit or Vegetable? Do you know?

To determine the difference between fruit and vegetable let’s examine what makes a fruit a fruit and what makes a vegetable a vegetable.

If you are speaking in a botanical or scientific context, then pumpkin, tomato, capsicum, cucumber, and squash are fruits because they all have seeds. If you are speaking in culinary terms, they can all be properly called vegetables.

What are vegetables?

‘Vegetable’ is a culinary term. Its definition has no scientific value and is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. All parts of herbaceous plants eaten as food by humans, whole or in part, are generally considered vegetables. Therefore vegetables include leaves (Spinach, Celery, Lettuce, Cabbage), stems (Asparagus, Celery, Kohlrabi), flowers (Broccoli, Artichokes, Cauliflower), fruits (Tomato, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini Cucumber), seeds (peas, beans), root and tubers (Radish, Beetroot, Carrot, Sweet Potato, Yam, Turnip), or bulbs (Garlic, Shallot, Onion).

Vegetables are relatively low in fructose and have a more savory or starchy taste. There are many botanical fruits that are labeled as vegetables due to their culinary preparation as well as cultural use. The tomato, eggplant and bell pepper are traditionally thought of as vegetables. Corn kernels and pea pods are also referred to as a vegetable but classified as a fruit. These particular fruits are routinely served in entrees as part of a savory dish and are therefore, from a cultural perspective, considered to be vegetables. Mushrooms are fungi, not herbaceous plants; they are considered vegetables due to their inclusion in savory dishes or entrees.

What are fruits?

The term fruit has different meanings dependent on context, and the term is not synonymous in food preparation and biology.

Fruits are sweet because they contain plenty of fructose, which vegetables usually lack.

  1. Botanical fruits:

Scientifically, a fruit is a seed-bearing part of a plant. It is a ripened ovary. It cannot be formed without pollination of a flower. During pollination male gamete is transferred through pollen, to the stigma of the flower, and then to the ovary where it joins the female gamete and forms a zygote. As the developing seeds mature, the ovary begins to grow and ripens. The ovary wall, may become fleshy, or form a hard shell (nuts are also fruits). Fruit development continues until the seeds mature. Plants develop fruit to help them spreading the seeds to preserve and multiply the species.

So, the seeds are what make a fruit a fruit (however, there are certain fruits which are seedless).

However, a great many common vegetables, as well as nuts and grains, are the fruit of the plant species they come from. No one terminology really fits the enormous variety that is found among plant fruits.

  1. Culinary fruits:

Any sweet, edible part of a plant that resembles fruit, even if it does not develop from a floral ovary, is known as culinary fruit. In many species, the fruit incorporates the ripened ovary and surrounding tissues. In cuisine, when discussing fruit as food, the term usually refers to just those plant fruits that are sweet and fleshy, examples of which include plum, apple and orange.

Rhubarb may be considered a fruit by some Botanists, though only the astringent petiole is edible. In the commercial world, European Union rules define carrot as a fruit for the purposes of measuring the proportion of ‘fruit’ contained in carrot jam.

Amazing Nutrition Facts:

  • In the culinary sense, a fruit is usually any sweet tasting plant product associated with seed(s), a vegetable is any savory or less sweet plant product, and a nut any hard, oily, and shelled plant product.
  • Some fruits are considered fruits in both culinary and botanical senses. Ex, Mangoes, Grapes, Water melon, Pomegranate Oranges etc.
  • Many items commonly called ‘vegetables’ are technically fruits. Ex, eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkins, bell peppers, Bitter gourd etc.
  • Most of the cereals are technically fruits termed a caryopsis. The fruit wall of cereal grains, such as corn, wheat and rice is very thin and fused to the seed coat. Therefore, they are considered by some as edible seeds.
  • Some spices like peppers and chili are technically fruits.
  • Many culinary fruits including Figs, Pineapple, and Strawberries are not fruits in the strict botanical sense.
  • The precise meaning of fruit and vegetable may also depend on local culinary traditions as well. For example, in Brazil the avocado is traditionally consumed with sugar as a dessert or in milk shakes, and hence regarded as a fruit; whereas in other countries (including Mexico and the United States) it is used in salads and dips, and hence considered a vegetable.

So, there you have the difference between fruit and vegetable and an amazing nutrition fact that scientifically a tomato is a fruit while in culinary and legal terms it is a vegetable.

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