Vegetables That Are Actually Fruits, Botanically Speaking

For basic culinary purposes, the difference between fruits and veggies may be boiled right down to this: Fruits are commonly sweet, and veggies are commonly savory. The botanical definition of a vegetable is similarly general—it may be almost any fit to be eaten as a part of a plant, from flower buds (like broccoli) to roots (like carrots). The word fruit, on the other hand, refers to at least one specific plant part. According to Lawrence M. Kelly, the New York Botanical Garden’s director of graduate studies, a fruit is “a mature, ripened ovary, along with the contents of that ovary” (seeds, for example). In other words, your salads, stir-fries, and other veggie-heavy dishes would possibly characteristic extra fruit than you think. Here are 11 so-called “vegetables” that are technically a fruit. Buy our best seller here.

1. Avocados

Avocado is a fruit comprising a three-layer pericarp that surrounds its single seed. That pericarp is made of the exocarp (the peel or rind), the mesocarp (the suitable for eating flesh), and the endocarp (an occasionally imperceptible layer that protects the seed). Since the endocarp is thin, avocado is also technically a berry. Fruits—like peaches—with thick endocarps (pits) around their seeds are drupes, not berries.

2. Olives

Olives, meanwhile, are drupes—and therefore, fruit. If you crack open the pit, you’ll see the actual seed of the olive tree or Olea Europaea.

3. Corn

Each corn kernel is an ovary that consists of a single seed. Since the ovary wall is directly fused to the layer surrounding that seed, it lacks the fleshy middle and dries out easily. This fruit is known as caryopses or grains. So, yes, fruit can also be a grain.

4. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, which also includes watermelon and cantaloupe (among others). This means, botanically speaking, those dill pickles you love (or love to hate) are pickled fruit.

5. Zucchini

The Cucurbitaceae family plays host to several other fruits masquerading as vegetables, including zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, and all other types of squash.

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