One of our favorite ways to celebrate each season is to explore the bounty of fruits and veggies it produces. In the spring, we lust after fava beans, peas, and artichokes. In the summer, it’s tomatoes, berries, and squash. Around autumn, we celebrate the arrival of apples and butternut squash, and in the winter, citrus and hardy root vegetables. But just because you’re a connoisseur of fresh ingredients doesn’t mean you can easily answer one of the more deceptively confusing questions: what’s the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? Sure, you know broccoli is a vegetable and oranges are fruits, but what about when it comes to tomatoes and rhubarb? Well, we’re unpacking this age-old question right here, with some help from the dictionary (among others).
According to Merriam-Webster, fruit can be defined as “the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant; especially: one having a sweet pulp,” while vegetable hits more closely to this description: “a usually herbaceous plant (such as the cabbage, bean, or potato) grown for an edible part that is usually eaten as part of a meal; also: such an edible part.” So, what does this all mean? Well, frankly, it’s a bit confusing, but there is some insight in the idea of how each is grown. A vegetable is the edible part of the plant (think lettuces, carrots, beets), while the crop from which fruit is grown is not necessarily edible (tomato vines, apple trees, etc).
With this definition, then, we can also ascertain that squash, eggplants, peppers, and more are in fact fruits, not vegetables! Due to their savory flavor profile, we think of them as vegetables. Rhubarb, on the other hand, which is almost always used in sweet preparations is actually a vegetable.
If you’re looking to be even more tripped up, listen to this: bananas are technically berries, but strawberries are not.
So, whether you’re looking for sweet, savory, or somewhere in the middle, we have some recipes that blend both like grilled peach and arugula salad, seared pork chop with cider gravy and apple-fennel salad, and our much-obsessed over prosciutto pizza with cherries and balsamic.
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