Are Strawberries a Fruit, a Vegetable, or Something Else?

Did you know that strawberries are the most widely-grown fruit crop? That’s right – strawberries are considered a fruit and not a vegetable, which is something you probably already knew. There’s more to it than that, though! In this article, we’ll explain what type of fruit strawberries are considered (according to botanists) and all the reasons why!

What makes strawberries a fruit?

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you might be quick to think “if it tastes sweet, it must be a fruit” – and nobody would blame you, since that’s the case in many instances. However, there are sneaky exceptions – just look at the non-sweet tomato and avocado, which are both botanically considered fruits.

So what technically makes something a fruit if it has nothing to do with sweetness? You’ll find plenty of definitions out there, but here’s a description that really helps explain it: if it grew from a seed and the seed is still present in the mature structure, it’s likely a fruit! In addition, fruit grows from flowers on the tree or plant.

Just look at common types of fruit like apples, raspberries, and bananas – all of them contain seeds as mature fruit. And before you ask, yes, bananas do have seeds! They’re the tiny black flecks in the center of the banana – they’re just much smaller and less obvious than apple and raspberry seeds.

What sets vegetables apart from fruit?

Vegetables are considered the edible portion of a plant, such as a stem, leaves, root, tuber, bulb, and flowering head. Vegetables also don’t contain seeds – at least not if they’re a vegetable in a botanical sense (more on that next).

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Here are some examples of true vegetables as classified in a botanical sense:

  • Stem: celery, asparagus
  • Leaves: lettuce, spinach
  • Root: garlic, carrots, potatoes
  • Tuber (a type of underground stem): potatoes, parsnips, beets
  • Bulb: onion, garlic, leeks
  • Flowering head (also called cruciferous veggies): broccoli, cauliflower

(As you can see, many root vegetables can also be considered tubers or bulbs!)

Are strawberries a vegetable?

It can be difficult to tell if certain foods are fruits or vegetables (like the tomato!), but the strawberry is pretty straightforward – it is not considered a vegetable.

Strawberries contain seeds and come from a flower, so they are a fruit botanically, as well as in a culinary sense since they are sweet like most types of fruit. (Some fruits are considered a vegetable in a culinary sense, such as tomatoes because they aren’t very sweet and are most often used for savory dishes like vegetables.)

Breaking down the classification of strawberries even further

So strawberries are considered a fruit – case closed, right? What if we told you there are different sub-classifications of fruit under the general “fruit” umbrella? We’re not trying to make things complicated, but we don’t make the botanical rules!

Another technical term for classifying something as a fruit is where it derives. If it only derives from one ripened ovary of a flower, it’s a true fruit. If other parts of the plant help make the fruit, it’s considered a false fruit. For example, apples also form from the thalamus of the flower on an apple tree, not just the ovary.

Strawberries can be considered a “false fruit”, or pseudocarp – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fruit. We’ll try to make it more clear: because the strawberry contains multiple seeds, it’s technically considered a “multiple fruit”, or an aggregate fruit. That means that a strawberry actually contains many tiny fruits (all from the seeds) together in a receptacle, which is the housing of the strawberry.

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What does this all mean, anyway?

At the end of the day, what you thought you knew about the strawberry still holds true. It’s considered a fruit – just not a straightforward true fruit in a botanical sense (remember that it’s considered a “multiple fruit”).

The nitty-gritty of classifying fruit is really only of interest to botanists, so you don’t have to put much thought about anything beyond strawberries being a fruit and not a vegetable – that is unless you want to!

In summary, strawberries are:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetable
  • True fruit
  • Multiple fruit

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