People can usually grasp the fact that tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are fruits rather than vegetables. However, there can still be quite a bit of confusion when a person finds out that a strawberry isn’t a berry but a watermelon is. This goes contrary to what most people have grown up believing. Still, it is true.
A berry is the swollen edible flesh of a fertilized plant ovum that contains and protects the seeds of the plant. Though this is just a little bit technical, it is pretty straightforward. The ovum is the base of the flower and in a berry, when it is pollinated it swells up to protect the seeds as they are developing. Blueberries are common examples of berries. The seeds are contained inside of the fruit, which is the swollen fertilized ovum of the flowers, designed to protect the seeds and to aid in their dispersal.
However, the same is true of both watermelons and grapes. In both cases, the edible flesh that we consume is the flesh of the ovum that contains the seeds. Naturally, in the case of blueberries the seeds are small and inconsequential, so we usually swallow them too, when we eat the fruit. With watermelons and grapes, except for the ‘seedless’ varieties, we normally don’t swallow the seeds if we can help it. The fact still remains that the fruit that we eat is the flesh of the swollen and fertilized ovum that contains and protects the seeds, so grapes and watermelons are berries.
A look at a strawberry is all it takes to realize that it isn’t a berry. The flesh is indeed the swollen ovum of a fertilized flower, but the seeds are on the outside of the flesh. They are neither contained by nor protected by the flesh, so strawberries aren’t berries, they are just fruits.
What about peppers, cantaloupes and squashes? The seeds are on the inside, so are these berries too? The answer is no. In all three of these, the seeds are attached to a membrane and it isn’t the membrane that is normally consumed. Because of the internal arrangement of the fruit, it is usually an easy matter to scoop out the seeds of cantaloupes and squashes or to cut them out of peppers, all while leaving the edible flesh behind. This can’t be easily done with a watermelon, because the watermelon seeds aren’t attached to a membrane. So peppers, cantaloupes and squashes are all fruits, but none of them are berries.
Considering all of this, a person might be inclined to think that peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums and cherries would be berries. They aren’t, though. The seeds of all of these are contained inside a hard shell or “stone”. It is the stone that protects the seeds, not the flesh that we eat. In fact, all of these are sometimes called stone fruits because of the structure of the pit that contains the seed.
Naturally, people tend not to call watermelons or grapes berries, though they are every bit as much a berry as is a blueberry, currant, service berry or gooseberry. People also tend to call strawberries berries, though they aren’t berries any more than corn or walnuts are. In the end, it probably makes no difference at all, but it is good to know the technical differences. After all, cucumbers and tomatoes are still found in the vegetable section of stores, though they are fruits and not vegetables. Knowing that they are fruits also does absolutely nothing to change the taste or healthy aspects of the food.
The same is true of berries. Knowing that a watermelon is a berry doesn’t change how good it tastes nor how good it is for you. Knowing that a strawberry isn’t a berry is most likely not going to persuade anyone not to eat them, nor should it. There should just be far less confusion about what berries are. It should be a point of interest rather than a point of confusion.