Is avocado a fruit or vegetable? Read the article to find out what avocado is from both a botanical and a culinary standpoint.
Avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, scientifically known as American Persea. It belongs to the Lauraceae family and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Avocados are also known as “alligator pears” or “butter fruits.”
There is evidence that humans have been consuming avocados for thousands of years and their benefits for health are well known. They are protein-rich, contain a good amount of potassium, magnesium, fibers, healthy fats, and many vitamins such as A, B (B1, B2, B3, B6) D, E, and K.
There are several varieties of avocados and they can be pear-shaped, spherical, or egg-shaped. When ripe, they can be dark green, black, brown, or purplish. The skin is relatively thin, and inside, it contains a fleshy core with a spherical and large woody seed in the middle.
Avocados can be consumed raw in salads, pickled, seasoned, or cooked in various recipes.
But what avocado really is? Is it a fruit or a vegetable?
There is no straightforward answer to this question as there are two views on this matter. One is the culinary perspective, and the other is the botanical standpoint.
Is Avocado Culinary A Fruit Or Vegetable?
What makes things harder is that there are no clear culinary definitions for fruits and vegetables.
A possible culinary definition for fruits according to Wikipedia is the following:
In culinary language, a fruit is the sweet or not sweet (even sour) tasting produce of a specific plant.Wikipedia
The definition above does not match the botanical description of a fruit, is very vague, and obviously leaves much room for interpretations.
The culinary definition of vegetables is even more ambiguous.
The original meaning of the word “vegetables” refers collectively to all edible plant parts, including the fruits, stems, leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds.
The simple definition is the following:
Any plant part of which is used for food.Wikipedia
So, basically, according to the definition above, we can say that all fruits are also vegetables, which would not be very practical.
The central element that is typically underlined in differentiating fruits from vegetables in the kitchen is the sugar content and in which type of dishes they are used (deserts or savory foods).
So, judging by this definition, avocado meets most conditions to be considered fruit from a culinary point of view. However, it does not quite meet what is considered an important requirement of being sweet or sour.
Compared to other fruits, avocado has a relatively low sugar content (about 0.7g per 100 grams). Its flesh is not sweet or sour and does not have a very prominent flavor.
The taste of avocado fruit is described by many as similar to that of butter (due to the high-fat content of the fruit) with a slightly grassy flavor.
Avocado is used both in deserts (with added sugar) but is more frequently used in savory foods like soups, quesadillas, tacos, and more.
So, what is avocado from a culinary standpoint?
In the absence of a clear culinary definition for fruits and vegetables, because it has a relatively low sugar content, as well as for the fact that it is used more frequently in savory dishes, I think we can say that avocado is regarded in the kitchen more as a vegetable than as a fruit.
Is Avocado Botanically A Fruit Or Vegetable?
Although avocado is consumed more as a vegetable than as a fruit in recipes, it is time to find out if avocados are fruits or vegetables from a botanical point of view.
If the culinary definition of “vegetables” is very vague, in botany, this term has absolutely no value. It doesn’t exist a scientific definition for vegetables. Therefore, we can clearly state that avocado is not a vegetable from a botanical perspective.
So, let’s see if avocado fits the botanical characterization of a fruit.
The definition of a fruit from a botanical point of view according to Wikipedia is the following:
A fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering.Wikipedia
From the above definition, we can identify two essential elements for the product of a plant to be considered fruit:
- To bear seeds
- To form from the ovary of a flower
In botany, an ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower. (source)
Below is a diagram to help you better understand the parts of a mature flower.
Now let’s see if an avocado matches these two requirements mentioned earlier.
Does an avocado fruit bear seeds?
Yes! Although an avocado fruit contains only a large seed, it does meet this criterion.
Does an avocado fruit develop from the ovary of a flower?
Yes! An avocado fruit forms from the ovary of a flower. (source)
So, what is avocado from a botanical viewpoint?
Since there is no scientific definition for vegetables and because an avocado meets all the requirements to be considered a fruit, we can undoubtedly convey that an avocado is a fruit from a botanical standpoint.
Is Avocado A Berry?
Many say that avocado is actually a berry and not a fruit or vegetable.
Let’s find out what berries are and whether the fruit of the avocado tree fits in this category or not.
We can tell from the start that it is wrong to say that avocado is not a fruit because it is a berry, because, in botany, berries are a subcategory of fleshy simple fruits. So, all berries are fruits, but not all fruits are berries.
There are also two definitions of the word “berry.”
In everyday language:
A berry is usually any small, pulpy, and often edible fruit.Wikipedia
This broad definition can include fruits like blueberries, grapes, cranberries, and even fruits that, from a botanical position, are not genuine berries but aggregate fruits, such as strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. (source)
Although avocado is pulpy and edible, it is a relatively large fruit when it reaches maturity. Therefore, judging by the popular definition of the word “berry,” we cannot include avocado in this category.
There are also multiple botanical definitions for berries. One may be the following:
A berry is a simple fruit having seeds and fleshy pulp (the pericarp) produced from the ovary of a single flower. The pericarp is divided into three layers. The outer layer is called the “exocarp” or “epicarp”; the middle layer, the “mesocarp” or “sarcocarp”; the inner layer, the “endocarp”.Wikipedia
According to this definition, avocado can be considered a berry as it does meet all the requirements.
However, there are also some people that claim that avocadoes are not berries but drupes.
Drupes are typically defined as:
Drupes are fleshy fruits produced from a (usually) single-seeded ovary with a hard woody layer (called the endocarp) surrounding the seed.Wikipedia
Although it may seem that avocados match the definition of drupes, they actually do not.
Drupes’ seeds have a hard outer shell (endocarp), while avocados’ seeds have a thin but fleshy endocarp. This small but significant argument makes avocado fruit a berry and not a drupe.
The avocado fruit is cultivated for its nutritional values, but also for its buttery taste in salads or various recipes.
Although many treat it in the kitchen more like a vegetable, botanically, avocado is a fruit.
We can classify avocado fruits even more as berries, but they are still fruits from a botanical perspective.