Scientists Say: Fruit

Technically, a salad containing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers would be a fruit salad

a mix of fruits including bananas, green and red grapes, oranges and grapefruits are bunched together on a table

Fruits are the edible parts of plants that contain seeds. And while the category of fruit does include usual suspects, such as cherries and blueberries, it also includes things like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

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Fruit (noun, “FROOT”)

A fruit is the part of a flowering plant that contains seeds. Fruits play an important role in a plant’s lifecycle. First, fruits protect seeds — which contain tiny plant embryos.  Second, fruits help those seeds travel, where they may grow into new plants.

Fruits grow on many types of plants. Apples and oranges grow on trees. Blueberries grow on shrubs. Grapes grow on vines. Fruits can be sweet, but they do not have to be. Corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squashes are all technically fruits, even though we often call them vegetables. Even acorns, which contain seeds to grow new oak trees, are fruits. So are bean pods and dandelion fluff.

Vegetables are other parts of plants that are used for food. Spinach or lettuce leaves, for instance. Or celery stalks. Root veggies, such as carrots, are vegetables, too.

Usually, fruits are edible — but some may be toxic. That’s why if you ever come across berries or other fruits in the wild, it’s best to not munch on them unless you are certain they are safe to eat.

In a sentence

Fruits become fireworks when grapes get zapped in the microwave. 

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Maria Temming is the Assistant Managing Editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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