Pumpkin is one of the most revered autumn foods, and it has become synonymous with the season. Pumpkin ends up in everything from candles to soups to coffee once the fall rolls around, and it is something that everyone looks forward to. From carving pumpkins on Halloween to pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, it’s a hallmark of the season.
Because it is such a dynamic and diverse ingredient, it can be confusing how to classify a pumpkin. It ends up in sweet and savory dishes, but that’s not a very good indicator of whether a food is a fruit or vegetable.
In this article, we will answer that question and hopefully give you some good information so you can identify other foods as well.
Is a Pumpkin a Fruit?
Believe it or not, a pumpkin is a fruit. Even though it often ends up in savory dishes like soup and pasta sauce, it has all the characteristics of the fruit. Science classifies foods as either fruit or vegetable depending on a few different factors, such as how they grow. Understanding what these are can help you know the answer to this question for all kinds of products. Some of the answers may surprise you.
What Makes a Fruit a Fruit?
In general, a fruit is defined as the ripe ovary of a plant that contains its own seeds. Pumpkins hold their seeds since we spend so much time getting rid of them every Halloween to carve Jack O’ Lanterns. We end up making quite a mess with them, too. At least the kids do.
Pumpkins are a type of squash, which is a type of gourd. All gourds are considered a fruit. Plants in the category of gourds are the smaller, harder cousins to pumpkins and are usually used primarily as decorations instead of eaten. As with anything in the plant world, there are many different classifications for everything, and knowing the difference can be helpful when figuring out what to use for different dishes or decorations.
What Makes a Vegetable a Vegetable?
Unlike fruits, vegetables are the edible part of an entire plant. They are not just the ripened ovaries and reproductive body of a female flower. Instead, they are the whole plant itself, and you generally need to harvest the whole thing to get to the edible part. Leaves, stems, and roots come to mind when considering lettuce, celery, and carrots.
It is why fruit tends to grow on trees. You can pick the fruit and leave the actual plant that the fruit grows on. Any time you harvest something instead of picking it, you can usually consider that a vegetable.
Are Pumpkins Berries?
If you want to get even more specific, pumpkins are considered berries as well. We tend to think of berries as being smaller and more abundant on vines. Raspberries, blueberries, and grapes come to mind, but this classification isn’t limited to that definition.
However, there are quite a few different fruits that count as berries that you might not think of at first. Cucumbers, bananas, and watermelons are all considered berries since the definition is technically just a fleshy fruit with many seeds.
Enjoy Pumpkin All Year Long
No matter how pumpkin is classified, you can enjoy it year-round in many different forms, whether fresh or not. Even the seeds are delicious when roasted and salted.
The important thing to take away is that produce isn’t defined as a fruit or vegetable depending on its flavor. Even though we tend to think of fruits as being sweet instead of savory, that actually has very little bearing on how it is classified.