Apples, oranges and pears are fruit. Broccoli, carrots and cauliflower are vegetables. Simple, right?
But it is not always that straightforward. For instance, not all of these items – mandarin, kiwifruit, fig persimmon and rhubarb – are fruit (and you’ll have to read on if you want to know which one isn’t).
There are also plenty of fruit that you count in your veg tally for the day. (Experts recommend you eat five serves of veg a day and two of fruit).
From a botanical perspective there is quite a clear definition of the difference between the two, says Pauline Ladiges, a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne’s school of botany.
Fruit, she says, are the ovaries of a seed-bearing plant that develop after fertilisation. Quite simply, if it has seeds it is a fruit.
“The ovary is the female part of the flower and after pollination (or fertilisation) the seeds develop protected inside the ovary, which swells and ripens. Fruits are often fleshy, coloured and sweet when ripened to attract animals to disperse the seeds,” Ms Ladiges says.
“Some fruits are dry or even woody in the case of eucalypts – these are called capsules rather than gum ‘nut’ (it is not a nut) – or banksia and macadamias, their fruits are called follicles.”
By this definition not only are apples, oranges and pears considered fruit, so too are tomatoes, olives and cucumbers. But that is not all. Legumes are also… you guessed it, fruit.
“Think of a pea pod. The whole thing is the fruit and the peas that you eat are in effect the seeds. Legumes are a type of fruit,” Ms Ladiges says.
So if all of these foods are fruit, what exactly are vegetables?
“Vegetables, strictly speaking from a botanical point of view, are the non-flowering bits. So the leaves, we eat spinach leaves. The stems, we eat celery. We eat roots, like carrots and turnips. We eat the tubers like potatoes,” Ms Ladiges says.
This all makes perfect sense, except we’ve been led to believe that fruit are sweet and vegetables are savoury.
Take tomatoes, for instance. When was the last time you made a tomato cake? While botanically these are fruit, most of us use them in savoury dishes – soups, pasta sauces, salads or stews.
“A tomato is definitely a fruit, but because it is savoury some people might call it a vegetable. Strictly speaking it’s not, it’s a fruit,” Ms Ladiges says.