I don’t know about you but I have had this discussion with many people and it’s always a heated argument. There are a few grey areas however, there is a simple way to differentiate between what is a fruit and what is classified as a vegetable. I thought I would research into it a little further to shed some more light and information on this topic. Botanically speaking to classify something as a fruit it must be the part of a flowering plant and contain seeds and are the means by which such plants disseminate those seeds. So yes people! Eggplant, pumpkins, squash, corn, peas and beans are fruit. Also… you’re going to think I am nuts but NUTS can be fruits too. Nuts that are classified as a fruit are known as a Drupe.
In Botany, a drupe is a type of fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (what we usually call a pit, stone or pyrene) with a seed inside. Examples are cherries, peaches and plums and the aforementioned nuts; almonds, walnuts and pecans.
So what about vegetables?
Botanically speaking, vegetables are all the other parts of the plant, including the leaves (e.g. lettuce and spinach), roots (e.g. carrots and radishes), stems (e.g. ginger and celery) and even the flower buds (e.g. broccoli and cauliflower).
With this botanical information of the fruit and vegetable, seedy outgrowths such as apples, squash and tomatoes are all fruits and roots like the potato, turnip, beetroot and leaves such as the almighty Kale and spinach and stems like the staple broccoli and celery are all considered vegetables.
In culinary terms though, a lot of foods that are botanically considered fruits and are savoury rather than sweet are typically considered vegetables by chefs. For example, capsicums, eggplants and tomatoes. So blame the confusion on the taste buds and creative skills of our wonderful chefs out there!
Wait… aren’t the tomato and eggplants “nightshades”?
“I’ve heard the term NIGHTSHADE in regards to vegetables. What exactly are Nightshades?”
Good question! Members of the Nightshade family include white potatoes (not sweet potatoes), eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum and peppers. This list also includes foods that are made from peppers like paprika, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. We are talking about edible nightshades here… not the list of poisonous ones. Quite a few nightshades are toxic to humans with the most well – known one being the belladonna. Made famous by the play Macbeth.
“Belladonna” means ‘beautiful lady’ and is probably derived from the fact that women in the Middle Ages used the herb extract, dropped into the eyes, to dilate the pupils, making them appear darker and more beautiful. Very strange if you ask me… I highly recommend you DON’T DO THIS!
Having such a toxic plant a member of the nightshade has people thinking that all nightshades are dangerous. It is best to steer clear of the nightshade family if you are suffering form an auto-immune disease or anyone who has a sensitive gut. Try limiting your nightshade intake or at least prepare them properly if you are wanting to include them in your diet.
Tips on how to prepare Nightshades
- Peel all potatoes as most of the nasties are found on their skin. Make sure to cut out any green bits too and avoid all together if it is sprouting or mostly green.
Read more about the dangers of Potato HERE
- Avoid green tomatoes. Unripe nightshades are high in alkaloids.
- Make sure you cook all nightshades when you eat them as this reduces the alkaloids further.
So to give a quick summary … if if is from a plant and has seeds it is a fruit. Yes this includes seedless grapes and watermelon. They are meant to have seeds but have been genetically modified to not have seeds for ease of eating. If it doesn’t have seeds… it’s a vegetable.
Scientifically it is pretty clear to distinguish a difference… it’s the culinary system that has made the classification a little more ambiguous hence the heated discussions had by many.