There are a ton of vegetables that we grew up eating that are not actually vegetables at all. They are in fact fruits. So, what vegetables are actually fruits?
In order to answer this question, we will review what the actual differences between vegetables and fruits are. And, then, we will review 16 of the most common plants that are called vegetables when they should actually be classified as fruits.
What is the Difference Between Vegetables and Fruits?
We are going to answer this question by the botanical definition. This is important to note because there is also a culinary and horticultural definition of what is a fruit or vegetable and sometimes that definition is in opposition to the botanical definition.
Essentially a fruit is a mature ovary of the plant that contains it's ovules or seeds. It is a separate part of a plant that is seed bearing. So this part will separate itself from a plant in order to spread the plant seed. Typically, you will see these "fruits" formed from flowers on the main part of the plant.
While a vegetable is actually a part of the plan, so the things we eat like stems, roots, and leaves.
Now that you know how to tell the difference between a fruit and a vegetable (botanically speaking), keep reading below to find out about 16 of the most common vegetables that should actually be classified as plants.
Now this one you might have already known. In fact, we wrote our own blog called are tomatoes a fruit? This one does have a twist to it though.
While the tomato is technically a fruit. In the culinary world, it is actually considered a vegetable due to its low fructose content. This answer applies to all types of tomatoes.
And, according to the Supreme Court, tomatoes are vegetables - for customs purposes anyway.
Yellow squash is just one of many types of summer squash. One thing that's very interesting about growing yellow squash and pretty much any kind of summer squash is you'll notice a large, very beautiful flower blossom before the squash grows.
In fact, sometimes the blossom will not even fall off before the fruit is finished growing. So you will see a wilted flower on the end of your yellow squash.
Like yellow squash above, zucchini is also in the summer squash family, thus, a fruit. The reason we include zucchini in this list directly under yellow squash is because zucchini looks very different than yellow squash.
Oftentimes people will see something that is green and just assume that it's a vegetable. But, again, just like the yellow squash above, when growing zucchini it will show the same type of flower blossom and sometimes even have that blossom on the end of the zucchini fruit.
I know what you're thinking, another summer squash? You couldn't be more wrong.
The Butternut Squash is a type of winter squash. But just like summer squash, the winter squash is also a fruit. The difference between the two is summer squash has a thin skin and winter squash has a hard, shell-like husk.
So the Butternut Squash, alongside, the acorn squash, and spaghetti squash, among others, all fall into the fruit category.
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The tomatillo plant is in the same nightshade family as the tomato. So it should come as no surprise that the tomatillo is also a fruit.
The tomatillo plant grows similarly to a tomato plant, in that it grows as long stalks. They're often even grown in tomato cages.
Most often you'll see these growing on a bush or some kind of Vine. But all peas are also part of the fruit category. This includes sweet peas, sugar peas, snap peas, snow peas, and everything in between.
Chickpeas grow on bushes. Similar to beans or peas, they grow in small pods. Contrary to what the name may say, chickpeas are not actually peas. They belong to the same legume family as many other beans. Which is why they also have the name 'Garbanzo bean'.
Beans might be a little bit tricky in this area. I never personally really thought of beans as a vegetable or a fruit. But that assumption is often made.
Because beans are the seed themselves for the plant, and they grow most often in pods that detach themselves from the plant, they do, in fact, fit the criteria for fruit.
Eggplants grow hanging from stalks similar to tomato plants. The leaves are large and lush and provide plenty of shade for the fruit. They, like summer squash develop out of a flower and have seeds inside, thus making them a fruit.
So peppers are one of the reasons that this article includes 16+ in the description. The reason being we only list 16 vegetables that are really fruits, we're not mentioning every sub category.
Okra is honestly the one that we are most shocked about. I've always lumped okra into the same category as maybe celery or broccoli.
I've always just thought that it was a stalk kind of vegetable that I personally only really liked if it was battered and fried.
But if you look at the way okra grows, it is actually more like a pepper plant than broccoli or celery. The okra grows in little pods, and not stalks at all.
Learning how to grow cucumbers is super easy and they are therefore popular in vegetable gardens.
I think it's the association with salads that earns cucumbers the reputation of being a vegetable. That and, as I mentioned before, the fact that it's green.
Olives may not seem as surprising to you if you realize that they grow on trees. They're definitely not vegetables, and grow more like cherries versus something like a grapes on a vine.
Avocados, like olives, also grow on trees. If you were to find them in the wild or grow them on your own, you would notice that they bear fruit similar to a pear tree or an apple tree.
String beans/Green beans
Second to maybe the tomato, the string bean or green bean is probably the most often confused fruit for vegetable. When talking about vegetables, people often use the phrase "eat your greens".
And like the zucchini above, because the green beans are in fact green, people just assume that they are vegetables.
But whether you are growing green beans on a vine like string beans, or on a bush like bush beans, they are all fruit. You will notice a small flowering bud growing just before the green bean starts to grow.
Corn is probably one of the more surprising entries in this list. Once knowing the definition of a fruit, it makes sense. But, typically, we consider fruit to have a fleshy inside. Corn is anything but a large, single, juicy treat. It is several small kernels packed into one big ear.
Are there any other vegetables that are really fruits in disguise that we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments below.
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