Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I put the word “street” in quotes because a few of these are not in the street.  Most are. Comments from me not needed.

The lesson for the day --


This all started with an article in the San Jose Mercury Food section that stated that artichokes are not a vegetable, but a flower.  That got me wondering,, what is the difference among fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Is a tomato, for example, a fruit or vegetable.  (The short answer is “yes”).  Several Google searches led to some fascinating information. 

It appears that the answer to the question depends on the context, and that there are two possible views.  (Well, three, really, but we’ll get to that later.)  In a botanical context, a fruit is the ripened ovary, together with seeds, of a flowering plant.  In other words, if it has seeds, it’s a fruit.  But then that means that not only are the sweet and fleshy foods, such as plums, apples and oranges considered fruits, but so are pumpkin, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes.  (Except that now there are seedless cucumbers).

“Vegetable” is a culinary term, and its definition has no scientific value.  In culinary terms, a vegetable is a plant grown primarily because it produces an edible part.  This includes:  Root crops like potatoes, carrots and turnips, Bulbs like onions and garlic, Stems like asparagus and rhubarb, Leaves like lettuce and cabbage, and (ahem) Flowers like artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower.

Case solved, right? Not quite. The United States Supreme Court entered into this fascinating debate and gave a legal verdict on whether a tomato should be classified as a vegetable or a fruit. They decided unanimously, in Nix versus Hedden, 1883, that a tomato is a vegetable, even though it is a botanical fruit.

I stated earlier that there are really three possibilities, and this is the one I like.  This is the youngster version:  If we like it, it’s a fruit; if we don’t, it’s a vegetable.


  1. Good rule, but I have another:
    If it's eaten at breakfast or in a jam it's a fruit; if it's eaten at dinner it's a veg.

    This allows for some ambiguity, and also frees lunch from any interest whatsoever (that slice of tomato on the sandwich doesn't count.)

  2. If it grows on a tree I can call it a fruit, right? Which is why I have a recipe for avocado lime honey cheesecake. Oobleck pie, the cheesecake cookbook calls it (with thanks to Dr. Seuss.)