Distinguish Fruits From Veggies

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Establishing differences between fruits, vegetables, and nightshades determine how they are stored and consumed.

How To Distinguish Fruits From Vegetables

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To a botanist, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. Tomatoes, beans, corn kernels, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, pumpkins, squash and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, apricots, mangos, melons, pears, and peaches.

Botanically speaking, a vegetable is any edible part of a plant that doesn’t happen to be a fruit, as in leaves (cabbage, lettuce, spinach), roots (beets, carrots, turnips), stems (asparagus), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (onions), and flowers (broccoli and cauliflower).

Are tomatoes fruit or vegetables? How would you answer this? Botanical and political produce definitions differ. In 1886, importer John Nix and colleagues brought a load of West Indian tomatoes to the New York Port. The customs official, Edward Hedden, demanded a ten percent tax (Tariff Act of 1883 levied an import duty on “foreign vegetables.”)

Nix, who knew his botany, objected, on the grounds that the tomato is a fruit that should be tax-exempt. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where, in 1893, Justice Horace Gray ruled in favor of vegetable.

🍅 Vivipary is the sprouting of seeds within tomatoes. Causes include long storage in cool temperatures (below 55 degrees), being overripe, potassium deficiency, and over fertilization with nitrogen and again.

“Botanically speaking,” said Justice Gray, “tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people…all these vegetables…are usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.”

If your refrigerator has such a setting, it is best to store vegetables in high humidity and fruits with a low humidity setting. Cambria Bold offers the following tips for storing fruits and vegetables:

For Fruits: Non-cherry fruits, apples, avocados, mangoes, melons, pears, and tomatoes continue to ripen if left sitting on a countertop. Grapes, bell peppers, citrus, and berries deteriorate so refrigerate them. Bananas ripen very quickly, and also speed ripening of nearby fruits. Either leave out of the refrigerator or peel, slice and freeze bananas.

For Vegetables: Remove rubber bands and ties, trimming any leafy ends to an inch before storing. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has punctured air-flow holes. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator to hasten rotting. Wash leafy greens before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water. Do not was soft herbs or mushrooms until ready for use.

Preventing Listeria

Listeria is the name of a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals. People usually become ill with a rare disease called listeriosis after eating contaminated food. Listeriosis most often affects unborn fetuses, newborn infants, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Thoroughly cook all raw foods of animal origin, such as meat to prevent listeriosis and other foodborne diseases, because heat kills listeria monocytogenes.

Reheat leftovers or prepackaged foods, especially deli meats, until steaming hot. Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Do not eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or other dairy products. Though Mexican-style cheeses and other Latin-style soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk have also caused listeriosis, do not eat soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, and Mexican-style cheeses, unless they have a “made from pasteurized milk” label.

Considerations for Nightshade Foods

Most commonly studied and consumed nightshade plants are the alkaloid potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. Below are key alkaloids in these three nightshade foods.

Night­shade FoodScientific NameKey Alkaloids
TomatoLycopersicon esculentumtomatine, deyhdro­toma­tine
PotatoSolanum tuberosumalpha-solanine, chaconine
EggplantSolanum melongenasolasonine, solar­margine

There are rare potential health benefits associated with food alkaloids. Yet, there are also potential problems with excessive intake. Based on a study of potatoes from Mexico, 65–70% of the alkaloids are removed by skinning the potatoes prior to cooking.

People who want to lower the alkaloid content of potatoes should cut out any sprouting spots prior to cooking. Exposure to light can increase the alkaloid content of potatoes so store them in a dark place.

Some people with forms of arthritis or other musculoskeletal health problems who eliminate nightshade vegetables feel better. A large-scale human research study that suppots this theory is lacking.

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