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SciShow

Here's Why Corn Is a Fruit, Capsicums Are Berries, And Rhubarb's a Vegetable

BEC CREW
25 JUN 2015

First off, we’re really glad that at the beginning of the latest episode of SciShow, Hank Green tells us all not to use what we’re about to learn as an excuse to be an insufferable pedant to everyone around us. That would be the worst, because this stuff is actually really fun. Prepare to have your world shattered, because corn is a fruit, rhubarb is a vegetable, capsicums are berries, and strawberries are none of these things. 

 

These days, most people know that while we talk about them as vegetables, tomatoes and avocados are actually fruits. The way we talk about fruits and vegetables - vegetables are generally considered elements of savoury meals, and fruits are sweet foods for using as snacks and desserts - has ended up very different from how we should be talking about them, according to how they are technically defined.

As Hank explains, the definition of a true vegetable is anything that is the root, stem or leaf of a plant. This means that while many of us would call rhubarb a fruit because it’s used like one, technically, it’s actually a vegetable, and those lovely vegetables that we love to cook with like corn, zucchini and spring beans? Sorry, they’re fruits.

Which brings us to the proper definition of fruits, and brace yourselves, because it’s kinda weird: fruits are the ovaries of a flowering plant that develops after its seeds are fertilised (or sometimes even without fertilisation). This means that while you might now think that by this definition, broccoli and cauliflower are technically fruits, they’re actually not, because they’re unopened flower buds that have not yet developed.

Further down the rabbit hole we go, and we get to the definition of a particular type of fruit - a berry. As the video above explains, berries are fruits that come from a single ovary but have multiple seeds. Which means grapes, bananas and capsicums all different types of berries. 

And strawberries? Well they’re not even a fruit. They’re a special type of plant structure with a rather delicious moniker: fleshy receptacle. How are you enjoying your flesh receptacle jam on toast now? The seeds in strawberries are the actual fruit part. Botany, you are WEIRD.

Nuts are a whole other story, and I’ll let Hank delve into that treasure trove of technicalities in the latest episode of SciShow above. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be in the corner, rocking back and forth in the foetal position and mumbling to myself about apple and vegetable crumbles while enjoying a nice sweet bowl of drupes.