Tomatoes are vegetables, right? But, wait, are they a fruit, too? How does that work?
The etymology of vegetable derives from the Latin vegetabilis, which means to animate, and vegetare, which means to enliven. The word vegetable used to be used in the same way the word vegetation is used, simply another word for plants.
Today, this is no longer the case. The term “vegetable” can be a confusing one, because it is not rooted in science, but rather in the culinary world. A vegetable is deemed as such because of the way it can be prepared in the kitchen, not because of the family it comes from in the plant kingdom. Vegetables are considered edible plants that have a savory flavor.
When talking about fruits, though, one should be conscious of what environment they’re in. If you’re in the kitchen, the word fruit refers to any edible plant that has a sweeter flavor. If you’re in a science laboratory, though, fruit refers to the ovary of a seed bearing fruit. The tomato in a science lab is a fruit. That same tomato in the kitchen, though, is considered a vegetable.
Most of us deal with fruits and vegetables in the kitchen, not in the laboratory. This is where many people get confused, because classifying fruits and vegetables is subjective – does that plant taste sweet or savory? Are we eating its seeds, stems, or leaves? Luckily for us, the culinary world has pretty much narrowed down the art of classifying these foods. Here is how you should refer to these common foods in the kitchen:
*Links lead to more information on the fruit or vegetable
Zucchini / Summer Squash