13 August, 1991
St. Cloud Times
St. Cloud, MN 56301
The recent article (7 August, 1991) concerning watermelon contained a rather juicy botanical error - contrary to the headline, watermelon is most definitely a fruit. The error is excusable because it reflects the fact that some words, such as "fruit" and "vegetable," mean different things to different people.
To a botanist, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure of the plant that is produced by a flower and a vegetable is a food obtained from the vegetative or non-reproductive parts of the plant such as roots, stems or leaves. In contrast, conventional wisdom considers vegetables to be those plants eaten during the main course and fruits to be those which are sweet and often eaten for dessert.
Thus, squash, gourds, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are technically fruits even though we commonly call them "vegetables" because they are served during the main course. To confuse matters further, some fruits like watermelon, can be eaten both as a "vegetable" in salads, sandwiches, salsas and soups as described in your article or as a "fruit" when served for an after dinner treat.
Stephen G. Saupe
College of St. Benedict
St. Joseph, MN 56374