Fruits and vegetables and thistles, oh, my!

A THISTLE OR FRUIT  —  This artichoke plant belonging to Paul and Bonnie Kronebusch is pictured in the garden above and in a pot below. The flower produces after the artichoke has been formed, so if you want to see the flower, you have to leave the fruit on the plant. Just a bit backwards. Not native to Montana, the idea was Paul’s idea, they braved the challenge and the Kronebusch garden produced artichokes.  I-O Photo by Barb Stratman




By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

It’s not exactly a secret that a tomato is actually classified as a fruit. The cat has been let out of the bag on that one, but what about other fruits masquerading as vegetables. There has got to be more than just the tomato.

A recent learning session with the owner of an artichoke plant had us wondering about the classification of a lot fruits and vegetables. Here is what we found.

The fleshy part of a plant that surrounds seeds is known as a fruit. So, technically, a fruit is the ripened ovary of a plant. That makes tomatoes, avocados, squashes, zucchini, cucumbers, peapods, pumpkins, olives, peppers (green, red, yellow), eggplants, and corn kernels all fruits.

Furthermore, the definition of a vegetable is a plant or plant part intended for eating. Here is where it gets interesting. Vegetables can be more than just a vegetable. Our friend, the artichoke, is a vegetable, but also a thistle. Broccoli and cauliflower are classified as vegetables but are also flower buds. Things like lettuce, spinach, bok choy, kale and arugula are leaves as well as vegetables. Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are all tubers as well as being known as vegetables. Classic vegetables like carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets and turnips are roots.

One can get carried away trying to find the appropriate classification for everything. Still, it might be fun the next time you see someone eating an artichoke or even artichoke dip to say “Are you aware you’re eating a thistle?”