What is the difference between fruits and vegetables?

Tamara Troup:

Short answer: A fruit is the mature seed-bearing ovary part of a plant and a vegetable is the edible parts of plants that are not classified contrary. A fruit can be a vegetable, but a vegetable cannot be a fruit. Fruit is one of many scientific terms for an edible plant part, but vegetable is not a scientific term and is rooted instead in culinary and cultural tradition.

There are also some applicable answers here, but, of course, any good exposition is far lengthier than a Quora forum would allow.

Determination of plant part classification is based on three primary factors:

  • Biological: biologists focus on the molecular and structural aspects of plants to determine fruit and plant part status.
  • Cultural/Traditional: Methods of preparation and traditional use determine classification as vegetable or fruit.
  • Legal: Tax status historically has determined legal definitions of fruits and vegetables. The oft-cited case of the tomato's designation as a fruit is due to a legal precedent set by the Supreme Court that prevented the imposition of import duties on vegetables but not fruits. Likewise, the rhubarb has been subject to legal scrutiny because of its culinary use (this actually resulted in the rhubarb's legal classification as a fruit and a reduction in taxes).

The following classifications of fruits and vegetables are used:

Fruits list (click here for a more comprehensive listing of types and examples of fruit):

  • Fleshy Simple Fruit (ex. grapes, bananas, tomatoes)
  • Dry Dehiscent Simple Fruit (ex. peanuts, beans, peas)
  • Dry Indehiscent Simple Fruit with thin pericarp (ex. sunflower, corn, wheat, rice)
  • Dry Indehiscent Simple Fruit with hard pericarp (ex. beech nut, hazel nut, acorn)
  • Accessory Fruits (ex. apples, hips, strawberries)
  • Dry Accessory Fruits (ex. walnuts)
  • Aggregate Fruits (ex. raspberry)
  • Multiple Fruits (ex. mulberry, pineapple)

Vegetable Parts list (from Wikipedia "the term vegetable is not scientific, and its meaning is largely based on culinary and cultural  traditions"):

  • Buds (ex. capers)
  • Bulbs (ex. onions and garlic)
  • Flower Buds (ex. broccoli and cauliflower)
  • Fruits (cultivated as vegetables ex. pumpkins, squash, etc.)
  • Leaf, Leaf Sheath, Shoots, and Stem (ex. collards, ramps, asparagus, and celery)
  • Root & Tuber (ex. carrot and potato)
  • Seeds (ex. corn)
  • Sprouts (ex. mung bean sprouts)

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