14 Foods That Are Actually Fruits You Didn’t Know About

Have you ever been surprised to learn that some foods you thought were vegetables are actually fruits? You’re not alone! Many of the foods we eat daily, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are botanically classified as fruits.

This article will uncover fourteen common foods that are actually fruits. By the end, you’ll have a fun fact to share at your next meal and a new perspective on what’s really in your kitchen. Let’s dive in and explore these surprising fruit impostors!

What Defines a Fruit?

Understanding what makes a fruit a fruit can be a bit tricky, especially because the culinary and botanical definitions often differ. Botanically speaking, a fruit is the mature ovary of a flowering plant, usually containing seeds. This definition includes a wide variety of foods that we commonly think of as vegetables.

Fruits develop from the flower of a plant and are the means by which plants spread their seeds. They can be fleshy like tomatoes and peaches or dry like nuts and beans. The key characteristic is that they contain seeds and develop from the flowering part of the plant.

In contrast, vegetables are any other part of the plant, such as roots (carrots), stems (celery), leaves (spinach), and bulbs (onions). This distinction is why foods like cucumbers and bell peppers, which we often use in savory dishes, are technically fruits.

Understanding this botanical definition can help clear up some of the confusion and provide a new appreciation for the diverse ways plants grow and reproduce.

Common Foods That Are Actually Fruits

1. Tomatoes


Tomatoes are one of the most widely recognized examples of a food that blurs the line between fruit and vegetable. Botanically, they are classified as berries because they develop from the ovary of a flower and contain seeds. This classification means that, in the plant world, tomatoes are indeed fruits.

They belong to the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes and eggplants. In culinary terms, tomatoes are typically used in savory dishes, such as sauces, salads, and soups. This common usage in savory contexts is why many people think of them as vegetables.

Interestingly, in 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be classified as vegetables for tariff purposes, further embedding this culinary misclassification in public perception.

2. Cucumbers


Cucumbers are another common food that is often mistaken for a vegetable. They are part of the gourd family, which includes melons and squashes. Botanically, cucumbers develop from the flowering part of the plant and contain seeds, thus fitting the definition of a fruit.

Cucumbers are mostly water, which gives them their refreshing, hydrating quality. They are frequently used in salads, pickles, and as a crunchy snack, reinforcing their vegetable identity in the culinary world. However, their botanical fruit status remains an interesting fact that surprises many people.

3. Peppers


Peppers, including bell peppers, chili peppers, and even paprika, are all fruits. They develop from the ovary of a flower and contain seeds, aligning them with the botanical definition of a fruit. Peppers are incredibly diverse, ranging from sweet varieties like bell peppers to spicy ones like jalapeños and habaneros.

They are used extensively in cooking, from adding crunch to salads to bringing heat to spicy dishes. The culinary use of peppers in both raw and cooked forms often leads people to categorize them as vegetables, but botanically, they are indeed fruits.

4. Squash


Squash comes in many varieties, including summer squashes like zucchini and winter squashes like butternut and acorn squash. All types of squash develop from the flowering part of the plant and contain seeds, making them fruits. Squashes are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers and melons.

Their versatility in cooking is impressive, as they can be roasted, pureed into soups, or baked into sweet dishes like pumpkin pie. Despite their fruit classification, squashes are predominantly used in savory dishes, which is why they are often thought of as vegetables.

5. Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd or Momordica charantia, is a tropical fruit that is widely used in Asian and African cuisines. Botanically classified as a fruit, it develops from the flowering part of the plant and contains seeds. Bitter melon has a distinctive, bumpy exterior and a bitter taste that sets it apart from other fruits.

It is often used in savory dishes, such as stir-fries and soups, and is valued for its potential health benefits, including blood sugar regulation and high nutrient content. Despite its bitter flavor, it is a fruit with significant culinary and medicinal uses.

6. Eggplants


Eggplants, also known as aubergines, are part of the nightshade family and are botanically classified as berries. They develop from the flower of the eggplant plant and contain seeds. Eggplants have a unique, spongy texture and slightly bitter taste, which softens when cooked.

They are used in various culinary traditions around the world, from Mediterranean dishes like ratatouille and moussaka to Asian recipes like baingan bharta and tempura. Despite their botanical status as fruits, eggplants are usually treated as vegetables in the kitchen due to their savory flavor profile.

7. Avocados


Avocados are unique fruits classified as berries with a single large seed known as a pit. They develop from the flower of the avocado tree and are celebrated for their creamy texture and rich, buttery flavor. Avocados are incredibly versatile and are used in both savory and sweet dishes. They are a key ingredient in guacamole, can be spread on toast, added to salads, or blended into smoothies.

Their high nutritional value, including healthy fats, fiber, and various vitamins, makes them a popular choice for health-conscious diets. Despite their fruit classification, avocados are often treated as vegetables in culinary contexts due to their savory applications.

8. Olives


Olives are fruits that grow on olive trees, which belong to the Oleaceae family. Botanically, olives are classified as drupes, also known as stone fruits, because they have a fleshy exterior surrounding a single hard pit. Olives are harvested for their oil and as a food product, typically being cured and fermented to reduce their natural bitterness.

They are a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, appearing in salads, tapenades, and various cooked dishes. Despite their savory taste and common use as a garnish or ingredient in savory dishes, their botanical classification as fruits remains a fascinating fact.

9. Zucchini


Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a type of summer squash that is botanically classified as a fruit. It develops from the flowering part of the zucchini plant and contains seeds. Zucchini is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, used in everything from savory dishes like stir-fries and casseroles to sweet recipes like zucchini bread and muffins.

Its mild flavor and tender texture make it a favorite in many cuisines. Though it is commonly treated as a vegetable, zucchini’s fruit status highlights the diversity within the squash family.

10. Peas


Peas are small, round seeds that grow inside pods and are classified botanically as fruits. They belong to the legume family, which includes beans and lentils. The pea plant produces flowers that develop into pods, each containing several seeds.

While peas are often used in savory dishes like soups, stews, and salads, their botanical status as fruits comes from the fact that they develop from the ovary of a flower and contain seeds. Fresh peas, snap peas, and snow peas are all variations that add a sweet, slightly starchy flavor to dishes.

11. Corn


Corn, also known as maize, is a staple food in many parts of the world and is botanically classified as a fruit. Each kernel of corn is a seed that develops from the flower of the corn plant. Corn is unique because it is both a grain and a fruit, often referred to as a cereal grain.

It is used in a multitude of forms, from fresh corn on the cob to popcorn, cornmeal, and corn syrup. Its versatility in culinary uses blurs the lines between fruit and vegetable, but botanically, it remains a fruit.

12. Okra


Okra, sometimes called ladies’ fingers, is a flowering plant in the mallow family that produces green, seed-filled pods. These pods are botanically classified as fruits because they develop from the ovary of the okra flower and contain seeds.

Okra is commonly used in Southern, Caribbean, and Indian cuisines, known for its unique texture and ability to thicken stews and soups, like gumbo. Despite its savory applications and reputation as a vegetable, okra’s classification as a fruit is based on its botanical characteristics.

13. Tomatillos


Tomatillos, also known as husk tomatoes, are small, green fruits that develop inside a papery husk. They are a member of the nightshade family, closely related to tomatoes, and are botanically classified as fruits because they develop from the ovary of a flower and contain seeds.

Tomatillos are a key ingredient in Mexican cuisine, especially in sauces like salsa verde. Their tart, slightly acidic flavor distinguishes them from their red tomato cousins, and they are used primarily in savory dishes despite being fruits.

14. Chayote


Chayote, also known as vegetable pear or mirliton, is a type of squash that is botanically classified as a fruit. It develops from the flower of the chayote plant and contains a single seed. Chayote is popular in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines, often used in salads, stews, and sautéed dishes.

Its mild flavor and crisp texture make it a versatile ingredient. Though it is commonly treated as a vegetable in culinary practices, its fruit classification is due to its development from the flowering part of the plant and its seed content.

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