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Is there really a difference between fruits and vegetables?

By Christian Glass | November 16, 2019, 2:46 p.m.

Even in kindergarten, we learn to differentiate between fruit and vegetables. But the difference is not quite as clear as many believe. myHOMEBOOK asked a scientist! First of all: The matter is tricky.

Do you think the difference between fruits and vegetables is clear? If you ask, you quickly notice: The question cannot be answered unequivocally. Because many believe that a fruit is a fruit, a vegetable is somehow a part of a plant. But what about paprika, zucchini, tomato or cucumber? For many they are vegetables, but from a botanical point of view they are considered fruits.

Differences between fruits and vegetables - sweet or salty?

Another criterion for many: the taste. Fruit is usually sweet - vegetables usually need salt to prepare. Is that the difference? It is often true, but not always. The best example: carrots taste sweet even when raw. And steamed onions lose their heat, but, like cooked beetroot, gain in sweetness.

Wouldn't it be possible to determine whether something is a fruit or a vegetable based on the sugar content? No, because the salary can fluctuate - the setting would be pretty arbitrary.

Don't vegetables come from annual plants?

With this distinguishing feature one comes closer to the solution of the riddle. The agricultural scientist Dr. Anja Müller from the Leibniz Institute for Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Cultivation (IGZ) in Großbeeren (Brandenburg) explains to myHOMEBOOK: "Vegetables are usually one year old or in the course of their life only in foal and fruit over several years or several times."

However, asparagus and artichokes are a bit off the beaten track. For most of them they are considered a vegetable, so they should be annual. However, they will grow again next year. Dr. Müller says: “With perennial asparagus and biennial artichoke, only the part that grows out of the root stock every year is consumed. This means that the above-ground parts of the plant freeze completely in winter and are then annual as new shoots, in the form of a stem or flower base. ”In short: It remains tricky.

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Fruit is mostly raw, vegetables are cooked - is that the difference between fruit and vegetables?

Many believe that they explain the difference between fruit and vegetables spontaneously. But here too the comparison lags. Sure, we like to nibble berry fruits straight from the bush. And what could be nicer than biting into a crisp apple or a juicy pear in the autumn sun? But fruits can of course also be boiled down or used to bake delicious cakes.

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And vice versa: not every vegetable has to be cooked. Tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, kohlrabi, peppers - the list of vegetables that we also eat raw goes on and on. Raw or cooked does not explain the difference between fruit and vegetables.

It remains difficult to tell the difference between fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables - although we believe we can distinguish what the difference is, even in childhood, the two terms are not regarded as independent plant genera in biology. What is noticeable, however, is that toddlers learn relatively quickly to differentiate between fruit and vegetables. According to many scientists, this has to do with specific, early-established thinking functions in the brain.

Researchers assume that we have an internal, intuitive biology. Accordingly, we bring order into the world of living nature by making intuitive distinctions. It may have something to do with early survival strategies, that is, with evolution.

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