Is It a Fruit or Is It a Vegetable?

What makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable a vegetable?

It depends on context.

Fruits and vegetables are often defined differently in biology and in the kitchen. This often leads to debate as to whether certain foods, like beans and tomatoes, are a fruit or a vegetable.

In the kitchen the meaning of fruits and vegetables are largely based on culinary or cultural tradition. People often mistake certain types of fruits for vegetables based on taste. Fruits are generally considered sweet, vegetables savoury. Vegetables are more often used in cooked dishes. Fruits are more often used for snacks and deserts.

But in scientific circles the difference lies in how they are classified, not on the taste. And what we commonly call culinary vegetables are actually botanical fruits. Examples include tomato, pumpkin, peppers, cucumber, squash and eggplant


  To find out more about the difference between fruits and vegetables scroll down the page: 














Botanical Definitions of Fruits and Vegetables


Botanical Definition of a Fruit

A fruit is the sweet, ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed bearing, flowering plant. It is normally fleshy.

  • All produce that contains seeds is botanically classified as fruit. Fruits may contain a large seed, such as an avocado or a peach. Or numerous tiny seeds such as a tomato or an orange. If it contains seeds it is a fruit.
  • Most fruits are sweet because they contain a simple sugar called fructose. The sweetness of fruit is nature's way of encouraging animals (including humans) to eat it and thereby spread the seeds.
  • The following is a list of fruits that are often thought, incorrectly, to be vegetables because they are used in savoury cooking. Supermarkets often add to the confusion by labelling and organising produce according to culinary, rather than botanical classification:

  •  Tomatoes
  •  Cucumbers
  •  Green Beans
  •  Pumpkins
  •  Green, red and yellow peppers
  •  Pea-pods
  •  Squash
  •  Zucchini
  •  Avocados


Botanical Definition of a Vegetable

In contrast, a vegetable is an edible herbaceous plant or part of a plant that may include the stem, root, tuber, leaf, bulb, tuber or flower. If it does not contain seeds it is a vegetable

  • For example, carrots, celery, potatoes, lettuce and cauliflower are all botanically classified as vegetables.
  • Vegetables are less sweet than fruit because they contain much less fructose.
  • Some vegetables can be used in deserts and other sweet dishes. For example rhubarb pie or carrot cake.
  • Some people consider mushrooms to be vegetables. But biologically they are neither a fruit nor a vegetables as they belong to a separate food category. Mushrooms are fungi.
  • In scientific communities, whether beans are a fruit or a vegetable is debated. Beans are found in the legume plants unique pod. Some groups consider beans to be a vegetable. Others consider the beans found in these pods to be fruits.


Confused? If you are speaking in a botanical, scientific context, then pumpkin, tomato, capsicum, cucumber and squash are fruits because they all have seeds.

If you are speaking in culinary terms, they can all be properly called vegetables.

Please Note


The content of this page is provided for the general interest of our customers. It is not meant to be definitive when it comes to the difference between fruits and vegetables.It is beyond the scope of this web site to enter into discussions on the scientific or cultural difference between fruits and vegetables.