Fruits vs. Vegetables: What's What?

Ideas for my blog posts are often inspired by my teachers, who pour nutrition information into our brains each week and take the time to answer all of our eager questions; or they are inspired by family, friends or other PWN readers – people who are fairly interested in nutrition and knowledgeable enough to ask really great questions. Today’s post, though, is inspired by a group of 7-year olds. And, it happens to be an extremely tough question that has me stumped!

As I’ve mentioned before, I spend some time each month working with an organization that teaches nutrition and cooking skills to underprivileged people. It’s very fun and fulfilling, and I especially love working with the kids. The class I am doing right now is all kids, and last week during their nutrition lesson they asked us what the difference is between a fruit and a vegetable.

This question caused all of us to pause. It’s one of those things that is often discussed but rarely agreed upon. For some reason it’s hard for us to grasp and accept that, say, a tomato is a fruit.

So, I think I’ll clear this up for once and for all! Or at least I'll try...

A fruit, according to the dictionary, is “the developed ovary of a seed plant with its contents and accessory parts, as the pea pod, nut, tomato or pineapple”.

A vegetable, then, is “any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food, as the tomato, bean, beet, potato, onion, asparagus, spinach, or cauliflower”.

Still confused? Me too.

Other sources say that anything with one or more seeds should be considered a fruit. This would include things like tomatoes, avocados, peppers, green beans, zucchini and cucumbers. And apparently in 1983 the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be classified as vegetables when it comes to tariffs. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a vegetable, so I guess it’s still a fruit. Vegetables, rather, are edible parts of plants that don’t have seeds. These “edible parts” include leaves, stalks, roots, flowers or stems.

So, the difference between a fruit and a vegetable is still fairly confusing, but hopefully the more technical definitions at least shed some light on what’s what. And at least now I have some fact-based information to go by when this subject comes up in conversation!

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