Thank you for sending in this important question.
I hope my answer will help you to understand a
very important difference between fruits and
vegetable that you can pass along to your friends
and classmates (and even some grown-ups).
As you may already know, plants have many
different parts, so let's start by listing some of
them. Those parts that are buried underneath the
ground -- the roots -- help the plants take up
food and water from the soil. The long, slender
part that grows above the ground and supports the
rest of the plant is called the stem. Leaves
growing around the stem use sunlight to make food
for the rest of the plant. You probably noticed
that during certain times of the year, flowers
blossom and eventually turn into fruits. Inside
the fruits are seeds. If the fruits aren't picked
and shipped to your favorite supermarket, they
will eventually fall to the ground. Over time,
tiny microscopic creatures, insects, and some
small animals will eat the fleshy part of the
fruit that surrounds the seeds. The seed that is
left behind will eventually grow to become a new
plant. Simple, right?!
Well, not exactly.
You might be surprised to hear that botanists --
scientists who study plants of all different kinds
-- -- call anything with seeds inside a "fruit"!
This means that tomatoes, pea pods, cucumbers,
peppers, squash and avocados are all fruits, even
though many people call them vegetables! Why?
You guessed it -- because they all have seeds
inside. If you don't believe me, ask a grown-up
to cut them open so you can see for
According to botanists, real
vegetables are taken from different parts of
plants that don't have seeds, like the leaves,
stems, and roots. Spinach and cabbage are really
the leaves of certain plants. Asparagus and
celery are stems. Carrots, radishes, beets, and
turnips (yuk) are roots. What do they all have in
common? No seeds! So, all these plant parts are
So, after everything I've
just told you, do you think you would be very
successful taking seeds from vegetables? Of
course not because they don't have any! You
shouldn't feel bad if you didn't know this -- many
grown-ups don't either!
Most vegetables (e.g. bean pods, squashes,
tomatoes) are the non-sweet fruits of flowering
plants, which means that they have seeds in them
because they evolved as seed-bearing structures.
Normally, a "seedless" fruit is a fruit that has
been modified so that the seeds are soft and can
be bitten through easily (e.g. a seedless
watermelon), or they have the seeds fail to
develop (I can't think of a good example). But
such vegetables have seeds.
are not fruits (e.g. broccoli, asparagus) don't
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