Scientific FRUIT –vs– what we call FRUIT —
You might be surprised to know that, scientifically speaking, rice and beans are fruits but the red fleshy part of a strawberry is NOT a fruit — just those little seeds on it are!
When we talk about FRUIT in culinary terms, we are usually referring to sweet-tasting, often juicy plant parts. We consider vegetables to be something less sweet and more “good for you” and nuts and seeds are dry, crunchy, somewhat oily sources of protein. Spices are often not even thought of as plant parts — they are just little tidbits used for seasoning.
However, ALL of these things can be considered FRUITS — or at least some of them!
In botany — the science of plants — a fruit is simply the seed-bearing part of the plant. This includes grains such as corn and rice, along with nuts, seeds, and many “vegetables” such as tomatoes, squash, and peppers.
Fruits are scientifically classified according to their structure and how they are formed by the plant.
Simple fruits, whether dry or juicy, are formed from a single ovary (or only one pistil). These include all drupes or fruits with a hard “stone” or “pit” such as the familiar peaches, plums, and cherries — but surprisingly coffee, almonds, and olives are also considered drupes! In fact, some aggregate fruits we eat, such as blackberries and raspberries, are like tiny clusters of miniature drupes. Strawberries are aggregate fruits with their seeds on the outside of a delicious fleshy receptacle.
Multiple fruits are formed from a cluster of flowers. Each flower actually produces a single fruit, but they are bound together, more tightly than in an aggregate fruit. Multiple or “collective” fruits include figs, pineapples, and mulberries. If you live in the South (such as I do in the DFW area of Texas), you may be familiar with another collective fruit — the “horse apple” or osage-orange.
What about seedless fruits? While most people prefer seedless watermelon, oranges, and grapes, it takes a great many years to produce seedless varieties of our favorite fruits, because many species take several years to mature enough to produce their first offspring — especially tree fruits like apples. 😀
Enjoy your FRUITS!
Learn more about fruit terminology and morphology:
Fruit on Wikipedia
Fruit Terminology in parts
22+ Botanical Terms for Fruits
Why tomatoes are fruits (with video)
What exactly is a tomato?
10 vegetables that are actually fruits
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