Squash is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. With over 100 varieties of squash—from delicata squash to spaghetti squash to acorn squash—there is no shortage of fantastic recipes to choose from, especially in the fall.
This multifunctional ingredient can serve as the base for a sweet and delicate pie, or the hearty “meat” of a savory veggie burger. Whichever application you choose to use it in, squash is always flavorful, nourishing and filling. This family of plants comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors, and depending on the variety, squash can be harvested at different times of the year.
When looking at its culinary applications, most people associate squash with vegetables, rather than fruit. Fruits are typically sweet, enjoyed raw and juicy. Squash is best when cooked and usually has dense, hard, dry flesh. As a result, it can be difficult to classify. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Is squash a fruit or vegetable?” you’re probably not alone. Though it might seem counterintuitive, squash is technically a fruit. Read on to find out why.
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Is Squash a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Merriam-Webster defines fruit as the edible reproductive body of a seed plant. Therefore, any plant that bears seeds—like tomatoes or cucumbers—is technically a fruit. Like all varieties of squash, fruits contain seeds and come from the flowering part of a plant. That means that pumpkins, kabocha squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash and so forth are all technically considered fruits. Any squash that produces seeds and is therefore grown from the flowering party of a seed plant is technically a fruit. Though it doesn’t have the juicy flesh that we normally associate with fruit, squash is botanically different than vegetables like kale, mushrooms or cauliflower, all of which do not produce seeds.
Is Butternut Squash a Fruit?
Yes, even butternut squash is technically a fruit. Though it’s typically found in vegetable-forward dishes like squash, zucchini and tomato gratin, it contains seeds and comes from the flowering portion of a plant, which makes it a fruit. We typically associate fruit as having sweet flesh, and though that’s not a scientific differentiator, it’s also true for butternut squash. However, butternut squash’s flesh is dry, hard and dense, which means it’s best enjoyed when cooked.
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Which Vegetables Are Actually Fruits?
Botanically speaking, fruits are defined by what part of the growing plant they came from. Fruits grow from the flowering portion of a seed plant, while the other parts of the plant—like leaves, stems, and roots—are considered vegetables. Considering the fact that any plant that contains seeds and grows from the flowering portion of a plant is technically a fruit, there are many other ingredients that it might surprise you to learn are technically fruits, rather than vegetables. For example, eggplants are fruit, and cucumbers are fruit, too. The same goes for peppers, avocado, pea pods and string beans.
Does Squash Count as a Vegetable?
In terms of its culinary applications, squash can be difficult to classify. Many people consider squash to be a vegetable, because it’s dense and dry rather than juicy, and it is best when consumed cooked. It can be savory or sweet, and no matter what type of squash you choose, it’s always better when enjoyed roasted, steamed or baked. Squash often finds a home in vegetable-forward dishes like ratatouille or spiced pumpkin soup, and therefore chefs and home cooks typically treat it as a vegetable.
Vegetables are defined as the non-flowering part of a plant—like leaves, stems or roots—which means that scientifically speaking, squash is not considered a vegetable. However, since they are dense, dry, and hard, they can be treated like vegetables when cooking or baking.
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Is a Tomato a Fruit?
Perhaps the most famously misunderstood fruit is the tomato. This fruit is almost always considered a vegetable—it’s a key player in salads, soups and sandwiches. However, thanks to its seedy insides, it is technically considered a fruit. Tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant, which means it should not be considered a vegetable. Just like squash, this fruit is used in primarily savory applications. Unlike squash, a tomato’s flesh is soft and juicy, which makes it easy to enjoy both raw and cooked.
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