While you may think you know the difference between fruits and vegetables, it’s more complicated than you think. Fruits and vegetables are different in a few important ways.
First, fruits come from flowers, while vegetables are any edible part of a plant, such as leaves, stems, roots, or bulbs. Second, fruits always contain at least one seed that can be used to grow a new plant, while vegetables may or may not contain seeds.
Some fruits are often mistaken for vegetables, such as tomatoes, avocados, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash, pumpkins, and okra. This is because some of these fruits have a savoury flavour or are used in cooking like vegetables. However, botanically speaking, they are all fruits because they come from flowers and contain seeds.
Let us dig deeper into some of these fruits masquerading as vegetables below:
Avocados are really popular because they’re a healthy, plant-based fat. People use them on Mexican food, in Buddha bowls, and on toast. Lately, avocado fans have been coming up with new ideas like avocado frosting and avocado smoothies, and they taste great. This shows that avocados, even though most people think of them as vegetables, are actually fruits that go well with other fruits and can be used to make yummy desserts.
Avocado trees grow in tropical places. They have flowers before they make the fruit. The fruit is picked early and left to ripen after it’s picked. If you like soft, green avocados, you know they can be tricky to choose at the store. Learning how to pick ripe avocados will make your life much better. Avocados are often mistaken for vegetables because they have a mild taste and a green colour.
Tomatoes can be a bit confusing because even though we often use them in dishes as a spice, they’re actually a fruit. But what’s interesting is that tomatoes can also taste great when mixed with fruits like watermelon and peaches.
Many people like to grow tomatoes in their gardens because fresh tomatoes are wonderful, and they’re not too hard to grow. Growing your own tomatoes can save you money at the store. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you might have seen the pretty little flowers they produce.
There are different types of tomatoes that come in various colours, sweetness levels, and textures. For example, we often put cherry tomatoes in salads, but heirloom tomatoes are usually sliced and eaten raw.
When we talk about whether peppers are fruits or vegetables, they kind of have qualities of both. Veggies are usually crispy like bell peppers, and fruits are sweet and colourful, just like bell peppers. But because peppers grow from a flower and have fertilized seeds, they’re actually part of the fruit family.
Interestingly, the four different colours of bell peppers we see – green, yellow, orange, and red – are all the same fruit at various stages of growth.
Even though peppers might seem more like fruit, people often call them vegetables. We mostly use peppers in savoury dishes like stir-fries and pasta sauces, often with other roasted vegetables. But bell peppers aren’t the only spicy fruits out there. All hot peppers like jalapeños, chilli peppers, and poblano peppers are fruits too.
4. Winter Squash
Winter squash is a fruit. This big gourd comes from huge, beautiful flowers, and the seeds are edible and tasty when roasted. If you think about it, winter squash can be really sweet, just like many fruits, and they come in lots of colours. Winter squash offers a lot more than just different colours. There are countless flavours, textures, and shapes to choose from.
Most winter squash can taste either sweet or savoury, depending on how you cook and season them. Usually, you can cut them in half, take out the seeds, and roast them.
For a savoury flavour, you can use olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and hot pepper flakes. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you can use honey or maple syrup along with olive oil, coconut oil and ginger. And why not try both? Mix garlic, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes for a delicious sweet and savoury taste.
5. Egg Plant
Eggplant has a unique texture that some people really like, while others don’t. But here’s a surprise: it’s not a vegetable; it’s a fruit!
What’s even more interesting is that eggplant is considered a berry because it has small seeds you can eat. Eggplants can be a bit bitter, so it’s a good idea to prepare them before cooking. You can sprinkle salt on them and let them sit for a while. This helps remove some of the bitter juice that you can then blot away with a paper towel before cooking.
People in different parts of the world enjoy eggplants in various dishes, especially in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you can use eggplants as a tasty substitute for steak on the grill or roast them in the oven with the right seasonings. You can even turn thinly sliced eggplant into vegan bacon by frying it with ingredients like smoked paprika, maple syrup, garlic powder, black pepper, and tamari.
It might seem a bit confusing to mix up fruits and veggies, but it’s usually best to go with how most people think of them. You can keep these interesting facts in your back pocket for a fun conversation at your next dinner party. Or maybe you can talk about these differences if you run out of things to say on a first date. The reason is that the rest of the world treats these fruits as if they were vegetables, so it could get confusing at the grocery store if you try to stick to the technical terms.
Pumpkins, for example, are always found in the vegetable section of a store, even though they’re actually fruits pretending to be veggies. Pumpkin flowers are pretty, and they grow on vines that cover the ground with big leaves to keep the soil cool and moist. Their seeds, which are also called pepitas, are yummy. And as we all know, pumpkins can be quite sweet.
When pumpkin spice season arrives, you won’t need many conversations to convince anyone that pumpkins are fruits because they show up mainly in sweet dishes like pies, lattes, and muffins.
This slimy vegetable from the South is also called lady’s fingers. If you don’t like the sliminess, there’s a way to cook okra that might change your mind. Instead of cutting it into little rounds, try slicing it lengthwise.
If you’ve decided you don’t like okra at all, maybe it’s time to rethink things because, as surprising as it may sound, okra is actually a fruit. I guess knowing that makes its slimy texture more acceptable, right?
Okra grows from a lovely yellow flower with a deep purple or pink centre, the kind that might end up in a wedding bouquet. It has a slightly sweet and grassy flavour that is nothing less than healthy.
It’s pretty interesting that these tube-shaped, refreshing veggies are actually fruits. When you think about it, cucumbers make sense as fruits because they’re watery, juicy, and have a bit of a flowery taste. Some people even say that if you sprinkle sugar on cucumbers, they taste a bit like watermelon. It turns out that cucumbers and watermelons belong to the same family, so they have some similarities in flavour and how they grow.
Usually, we slice cucumbers, but you can try something different by smashing them. This helps the fruit soak up flavours better, like the dressing or seasoning you add to it.
Now, if you’re a fan of pickles, this might surprise you because pickling a fruit can sound strange. And when you put those tangy, vinegar-soaked cucumber slices on burgers and sandwiches, it might seem even more unusual. But here’s a different way to look at it: Since cucumbers are technically fruits, pickling them is a clever way to get some of your recommended fruit servings without having to make a smoothie or eat an apple.
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