Did you know that rhubarb is a vegetable and that cucumber is actually a berry and, therefore, a fruit? Contrary to what you may have thought, it is not the natural sweetness or savouriness of a fruit or vegetable that inform its botanical classification. However, this is sometimes true in culinary circles and kitchens.
Read on to discover the true scientific difference between fruits and vegetables, along with tips on growing 5 of our favourites in your garden, plus how to ensure your body gets all the benefits of a diet rich in fresh produce!
What defines a fruit?
The simplest way to distinguish fruits from vegetables is to establish where these edible parts of the plant come from within the plant's structure. In flowering plants, seed-bearing fruit develops from the ovary or carpel. A nut is also considered a fruit. Some common fruits you may have thought were vegetables are pumpkins, avocadoes, eggplants, beans and olives. Each has either a pip or seeds and comes from the flowering part of the plant's structure.
How do we classify vegetables?
Vegetables are the remaining edible parts of the plant, including stems, roots, tubers, flowers, leaves and bulbs. They do not contain seeds and may be sweet or savoury. Restaurants and grocers often categorise them by sweetness, however, leading to the labelling of certain vegetables such as pumpkins and eggplants as vegetables.
Vegetable intake for a healthy diet
Nutritionists recommend a diet with plenty of vegetables and wholegrain cereals with smaller portions of fruit and nuts, dairy, lean meat, poultry, and fish. Daily vegetable intake recommendations according to the current Australian Dietary Guidelines are:
Your daily serve of vegetables
It's easy to eat your daily dose of vegetables. A standard serve is 75 grams and can be consumed as:
- 1 medium tomato
- 1/2 cup of cooked green or orange vegetables such as broccoli or pumpkin
- 1/2 cup of cooked/dried beans, peas or lentils
- 1/2 cup sweet corn
- 1 cup green, leafy or raw salad vegetables
- 1/2 medium starchy vegetables including potato, sweet potato, taro, and cassava
Eat fruit every day, in moderation
While fruits are very good for you, the addition of higher sugar levels means they should be consumed in lower quantities than vegetables. Two pieces of fruit a day is recommended for people aged 9 and over. Children aged 4-8 should limit their consumption to just 1 1/2 pieces per day, while those under 4 should only consume 1 piece of fruit.
How to grow common fruits and vegetables
Growing tomatoes is one of the easiest and most rewarding vegetables to grow in your garden or planter box. Tomatoes grown in your own garden are full of flavour and can yield high quantities of fruit. They are suitable for growing in most climates and will thrive with regular watering.
Tomatoes like full sun and well-drained, sandy soil, so choosing the proper position in your garden and suitable soil is important. Tall growing tomato plants will need to be staked, and it's a great idea to do this early to avoid damaging the plant roots. As the plant emerges and grows, tie to the stake to promote growth and keep the plant tidy. Mulch and liquid plant food can also help boost nutrients and keep the soil moist in warm and dry climates.
- Green beans
Green beans are an excellent vegetable to grow at home and can be great fun for little ones. They are fast-growing and relatively resistant to disease or pests. Beans can be grown in most climate. However, it is always best to read the planting guides provided with your green bean seeds or seedlings to ensure the best results.
Choose your position carefully - green beans like full sun and moist, well-drained soil. While some green beans will require space to grow into a small bush, others will need staking, so refer to the label provided to ensure you prepare sufficient space in your vegetable patch or planter box. In addition, the use of soil improvers, plant food and fertiliser can increase your bean yield.
What could be sweeter than growing your very own strawberries at home? A reliable crop, if you can keep the possum's thieving claws off them, there's nothing quite like eating strawberries picked from your very own garden. This attractive plant is also chosen for its pretty white flowers and delicate hanging shape, making it popular for window planter boxes, patio pots, and hanging baskets.
To grow your own strawberries, choose a sunny position and well-drained soil in either your garden, veggie patch, pots or basket. Choose from seeds, seedlings or small plants depending on availability and the time of year. Regular watering, mulching and feeding of plant food will help your strawberry plants develop fruit after 20-28 weeks.
Carrots are the perfect vegetable to grow with kids. They are easy to grow, and harvest time brings all the fun of a classic Peter Rabbit adventure - just watch out for Mr McGregor!
You can plant carrots at any time of the year, but check the labels to ensure their success in your particular location and climate. To grow your carrots, find an area with full sun and well-drained soil rich in nutrients and be sure to water it regularly. While you can plant some carrots in pots, only smaller types tend to suit this kind of environment. Soft and loose soil will help your carrots grow up straight and strong. In 16-20 weeks your carrots should be ready to harvest.
Zucchini is an excellent and easy to grow vegetable. Growing zucchini plants produce the zucchini fruit itself and the flowers, which are delicious when stuffed and deep-fried.
Suited to most climates, zucchini grows best in a position with full sun and protection from strong winds. Plant in well-drained soil and water regularly, but be careful not to overwater. The fruit is ready to pick when the fruit is small and tender. Harvest regularly to encourage more growth.