Monday, May 13, 2013

Fruit loop

What I'm about to share will turn everything you've ever thought to be true in the world of fruit completely upside down.  So if you wanna live in blissful ignorance, stop reading now.

Lesley-Anne came home from school one day, sighing gloomily, "my life is a lie!"  What happened was that in biology, the teacher had taught them about the scientific classification of fruit and it turned out to be totally different from how we laypersons classify fruit.

For example, if I were to ask, among these four items - apple, lemon, grape, peanut - which of these is not like the other?  I'm sure most people would say peanut because it's not a fruit.  Well, if you did, you would be wrong.  The peanut IS a fruit.  The odd one out is the apple because although it's classified as a fruit, the part we eat is NOT the fruit. The fruit of the apple is actually the core. What we're eating is the modified receptacle of the apple flower.

In fact, many plants that we typically would not consider to be fruit are fruit. To scientists, fruit are products of flowers and usually develop as a result of a flower being pollinated.  This means that all grains, like wheat and corn, are fruit. So are sunflower seeds, green beans and hazelnuts.  

Mind blown yet? There's more. Among these next four items - avocado, strawberry, water melon, cucumber - which of these is not like the other? Now you've probably wised up and thinking, oh, it's a trick question.  Maybe the cucumber is a fruit. So maybe the avocado is not a fruit but a vegetable?  Wrong! All of them are fruit! The one that doesn't belong is the strawberry.  Because it's the only one that's not a berry!

Whaaaaatt?? Yup. That was my reaction too.  In botanical language, a berry is a fruit with seeds and pulp produced from a single ovary.   This means that the following are all classified under berries: all citrus fruit (eg. oranges, lemons, kumquats), grapes, bananas, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, water melons, papayas, guavas, bell peppers, avocados and coffee.  The silly fact is that not all fruit with "berry" in their names are true berries.  Blueberries, cranberries and gooseberries are indeed berries but not strawberries, raspberries or blackberries. 

Our brains can only take so much dissonance.  Still reeling, I asked, "so what's a tau geh?"  Lesley-Anne's classmate asked, disbelieving, "How can a banana and a watermelon be in the same fruit group?"  Lesley-Anne said indignantly, "To sum it up, a peanut is not a nut. A bean is not a bean. A strawberry is not a berry and in a way, an apple is not a fruit. I'm in the Fruit Matrix."

The next time you see a yoghurt label saying 'mixed berries', tell yourself it's all a lie.


Anonymous said...

All my life I never knew I was having a cuppa berries every morning. Berries can perk you up, now I know. So I might substitute my morning cuppa with a hmmm... what is in the berry family again?

Thanks for the enlightenment and utter confusion......

Anonymous said...

Great post! Although I must say, you have complicated my life... :-)


Anonymous said...

So, the orange that I ate last night was a berry, and the peanuts I snacked on this morning was a fruit?!

Perplexed Nutella

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting write-up for me to unlearn and relearn some specifically-defined terms.

I think classification is like this. It is not as static as we think. It is dynamic according to the properties we want to group it by. If the classification is "fruits with word "berries" in it", then they can come together again... LOL


monlim said...

QX: That must be a classification from a linguist, lol!

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