I Just Found Out Strawberries Aren't Berries—but Cucumbers Are—and My Mind Is Blown
Recipe pictured above: Mascarpone & Berries Toast
Normally when something has the word "berry" in it, it makes sense that it would be classified as a "berry," right? I mean, I couldn't have been the only one to fall to assumption here. Well, I was browsing online, looking up interesting food facts, and I stumbled upon this eye-opener: strawberries are not actually berries, according to the scientific nomenclature. But cucumbers, blueberries and kiwi are. Hmmmmm, interesting. Needless to say, my mind is blown.
So, I asked the experts, and here's what they have to say about this categorically confusing topic.
It's All About the Ovaries
Recipe pictured above: Strawberry Fruit Salad
To be a "berry," the food must have just one ovary. And berries as we know them, like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, have more than one ovary.
"Botanically, strawberries are actually a fruit. The difference is in the way the fruit comes from a single flower that has more than one ovary; for this reason they're actually called 'aggregate fruits,'" says Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN, CSO, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She explains, "Berries actually come from one flower with one ovary."
So, technically, fruits like strawberries and raspberries aren't really berries at all. (Yet, blueberries actually are, because they have one ovary! Confusing, yes.) Because they're aggregate fruits, they're classified as such due to their several ovaries. They still have the same nutrition, flavor and versatility as you'd normally expect, just with a different classification and technical term.
Related: Try Our Healthy Berry Recipes
"Berries" Are Surprising, Too
Recipe pictured above: Cucumber & Avocado Salad
So, what are berries? "Berries" include blueberries (the one unsurprising, but now probably surprising one!), bananas, avocado (avocados are not stone fruits, but they're close)and kiwi, as these are fleshy fruits that come from one flower with one ovary, says Kelly Jones, M.S., RD, CSSD, LDN.
Cucumbers are another type of berry, even though they seem more like a veggie! "Cucumbers are 'pepos.' "Interestingly, pumpkins, zucchini, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, cantaloupes and watermelons are also pepos," says Hultin. And they are berries, as they have one single ovary. She says, "This type of berry has a hard rind for an outer layer and a fleshy middle. The outer rind helps protect the ovary, which holds all the seeds within." Many gourds are pepos.
Stone fruits are not berries, though. "A berry is technically a fleshy fruit, but it has to be without a stone—like apricots, plums or peaches—and produced from a single flower with just one ovary," Hultin adds. So, when we call those stone fruits, that's what they are. Let's simplify some things over here in fruit world!
Regardless of classifications, berries and so-called berries are delicious. Try them in some quick and healthy dishes like Blueberry-Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake or Mini Berry Cream Pies. They're also called superfoods for a reason!
Related: What Is a Fig? Plus, How to Eat Figs