Is eggplant a fruit, vegetable, or berry? Here’s the answer to this question from both a botanical and a culinary standpoint.
Eggplants are plants in the genus Solanum, family Solanaceae, also known as the “nightshade family.” In the same genus, we also find other popular garden plants like tomatoes, potatoes, and chili pepper.
While many believe that eggplants originate from India, the exact country of origin of these plants is unknown.
The eggplant as we know was domesticated from Solanum incanum, a wild plant commonly called “thorn apple” or “bitter apple.” Nowadays, gardeners cultivate eggplants for their large and edible fruits which are used in many recipes.
Besides its origin, another enigma around eggplants is whether the products of these plants are fruits, vegetables, or berries. Hence, this article aims to understand what eggplants are from a botanical and culinary point of view.
Is Eggplant A Fruit?
When it comes to classifying fruits and vegetables, opinions are always divided. A botanist will have specific criteria to determine which category they fall under, while a chef will sort them based on other rules.
So, let’s see first from a botanical and culinary point of view what is the definition of a fruit and whether eggplants fall into this category.
Is Eggplant Botanically A Fruit?
The botanical definition of fruits:
A fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering.Wikipedia
So, according to this definition, two definitory characteristics that fruits must have are:
- Develop from a flower
- Must contain seeds
Now, let’s see whether eggplants follow these two key attributes or not.
Do eggplants produce flowers that later form the fruit?
Yes, eggplants are plants that produce star-shaped flowers from which the fruit forms.
Do eggplants bear seeds?
Yes, eggplants contain many tiny seeds inside the core of the fruit.
Based on these facts, we can say that eggplants are fruits from a botanical point of view.
Is Eggplant Culinary A Fruit?
Now that we know that eggplants meet all the criteria necessary to be considered fruit from a botanical standpoint, let’s see what they are from a culinary point of view.
Culinary definition of fruits:
Fruits are the fleshy seed-associated structures (or produce) of plants that typically are sweet or sour and edible in the raw state.Wikipedia
Therefore, from this culinary definition of fruits, we understand that they must have pulp, be sweet or sour and be edible in raw form.
Do eggplants have fleshy pulp?
Yes, eggplants have an abundance of edible fleshy pulp.
Are eggplants sweet or sour?
No, when consumed raw, eggplants have a slightly bitter taste. Hence, they are not very tasty like many well-known fruits.
Can you eat raw eggplants?
You can safely eat raw eggplant… Eggplant, is part of the nightshade family, along with potatoes and tomatoes, and does contain the toxin solamine.delightedcooking.com
So, can we say that eggplants are fruits from a culinary standpoint?
No. Although you can consume them raw, unlike popular fruits like apples, oranges, peaches, etc., eggplants do not have a sweet, sour, or pleasant taste.
Is Eggplant A Vegetable?
Botanical definition of vegetables
What we commonly refer to as “vegetables,” doesn’t have a real value in botanical terminology. Hence, we can’t make a clear distinction between the specialized definition of vegetables and the one used by the rest of the world.
A definition of vegetables from Wikipedia, is the following:
Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food, referring to all edible plant matter, including the flowers, fruits, stems, leaves, roots, and seeds.Wikipedia
Other definitions try to distinguish fruits from vegetables by their sugar content or taste.
Many times what is botanically regarded as a “fruit”, is sometimes considered a vegetable in culinary. For instance, tomatoes, squash, or peppers, which are all fruits by botanical definition, are regarded as vegetables from a culinary standpoint.
Are eggplants vegetables?
Absolutely! According to this very broad definition of vegetables, we can certainly say that eggplants are vegetables.
Is Eggplant A Berry?
Another theory regarding eggplants says that they are actually berries.
What are berries?
The term “berry” is oftentimes misused.
People usually associate berries with any small fruit that contains seeds and pulp, or just because the fruit has “berry” in its name.
However, botanically, not all are berries. For instance, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are not genuine berries, but are considered aggregate fruits (fruits that consist of a number of smaller fruits). (Source)
The actual botanical definition is a bit more complex to be explained here, so you can refer to this article on livescience.com.
Are eggplants berries?
According to the scientific definition provided by the article mentioned earlier, yes, eggplants can be considered berries.
After analyzing the eggplants, we came to the conclusion that:
Eggplants can be considered both fruits from a botanical standpoint, vegetables from a culinary view, and even berries due to their structure.
The reality is that eggplants, like many other plant products, can be classified in several ways at the same time. It depends on whose point of view and the definition used as a benchmark.
We hope you found this article useful and that you learned more interesting things about these plants.