Strawberries: The False Fruit

Imagine how betrayed I felt when I discovered that the strawberries I’d known and cherished all my life weren’t really berries at all. They weren’t even technically fruit. Alright! I cried out in the middle of the produce aisle, what ELSE have you been hiding from me all these years???

A strawberry is certainly no vegetable, but what makes it so unusual is that it carries its seeds on the outside. Most types of berries we know today (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and the like) carry them on the inside. Just like an ovary — and in fact berries are plant ovaries — the critical bits of regenerative matter are kept protected in the interior.

Not so with a strawberry, which isn’t the ovary of the plant but the vastly swollen tip of the plant stem, the same structure you see left on the end of a raspberry stem when you pluck the fruit off, only much, much bigger and bright red. So then does the strawberry plant actually have fruit? you might wonder. In fact it does: the seeds that dot the outside of the strawberry’s skin. These are technically the “fruit” of the plant, only dried and hardened, ready to germinate. Weird.

It’ll be a long time before I learn to trust again.

5 thoughts on “Strawberries: The False Fruit”

  1. I’m always amused by the differences in scientific uses and meanings of words in contrast to how they’re used in “popular parlance”.

    Except “organic”, whose popular usage I find to be MORONIC. ALL food is organic, or it wouldn’t be FOOD (with the exception, obviously of salt, which is in fact a mineral).

    But then, I’m a literalist at heart. Sorry about airing random pet peeves here. . .

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Joe. And the lesson–I knew that they weren’t berries, but until now I thought they were a fruit!

    Such tricky little things.

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