What Are the Differences Between Fruits and Vegetables?

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What Are the Differences Between Fruits and Vegetables?

The difference between fruits and vegetables seems obvious—for example, we all know that apples are fruits and cucumbers are vegetables. But are they really? Apples are indeed fruits, but you might be surprised to learn that cucumbers are, botanically speaking, a fruit as well. There are edible plants that we designate fruits and vegetables based on their flavor and how we use them in cooking, but by using that way of identification, some plants are often misclassified.

The most controversial example of misclassified produce is the tomato—is it a fruit or a vegetable? It has seeds and a structure like an apple, but it doesn’t have the same sweet taste as most fruits. Most of us would call tomatoes a vegetable because you grow them in a vegetable garden with potatoes, lettuce, and carrots (which are vegetables). Since a court ruling in 1893, tomatoes are considered vegetables in the United States. But, scientifically, tomatoes are actually fruits. Here are a few more facts about fruits and vegetables that might make you rethink a few things.

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fruits and vegetables

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How to Classify Fruits and Vegetables

From a culinary standpoint, fruits and vegetables are separated based on flavor: fruits are sweet or sour, and vegetables are mild and savory. Fruits make great garnishes, desserts, or juices, while vegetables are a hearty side dish or base for a main course.

Nutritionally, the only large generalization that can be made is that sweet fruits tend to be higher in natural sugars. than that, vitamins, sugar content, fiber, and carbohydrates vary a lot by the individual plant. The USDA recommends eating a mix of fruits and vegetables throughout the day to get a larger variety of vitamins and nutrients.

Although we use these fruits and vegetables in a certain way in the kitchen, their botanical makeup classifies them differently. Fruits come from the flower of the plant that they grow on. If the produce develops in parts of the plants other than the flower, it’s considered a vegetable. Fruits contain seeds. Vegetables consist of roots, stems, and leaves.

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Fruits That Are Commonly Misclassified as Vegetables

Just because we consider some produce veggies used in savory meals doesn’t mean they’re technically a vegetable. Although these fruits are mild and savory in flavor, they come from the flower of the plant they grow on. They also have seeds (or a pit).

  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Okra
  • Beans

In the kitchen, it doesn’t matter if the plant product you’re using is a fruit or a vegetable—vegetables can be used in dessert (hello, carrot cake). Fruit can be used in savory dishes, like a summery dinner salad. Although it won’t change your cooking, it’s always good to know what you’re dealing with concerning fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re growing the produce yourself. Plus, your new edible food knowledge may help you at your next trivia night.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.