Is Eggplant a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Have you ever asked yourself – is an eggplant a fruit or a vegetable? Most of us would automatically classify it as a vegetable, but is this really the case?

Technically speaking, eggplant is a fruit, because it is a kind of berry. Although it is classed as a vegetable from a culinary perspective, it is scientifically a fruit because it contains seeds, like an apple or a grape.

In this article, we’re going to look in more detail at what makes an eggplant a berry and why it is given a different classification in the culinary world.

Why Is An Eggplant A Fruit?

eggplant

Firstly, it is worth noting that while eggplants are scientifically classified as fruits, they are considered vegetables by the vast majority of the world. If you step into your local supermarket, you will find the eggplants in the vegetable aisle, not among the fruits – and that’s where you would expect to find them.

However, eggplants are fruits, and this is because of the way in which they grow. For a food to be classified as a fruit, it must have developed from a flower, and it will also usually contain seeds. This puts many surprising foods into the fruit category, including:

  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Avocados
  • Squashes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Sweetcorn
  • Olives

Obviously, all of those in the list above are foods that we would count as vegetables, not fruits, and the same goes for eggplants; we do not consider them fruits in the normal course of things, even if this is how they would be scientifically described.

A vegetable is any part of the plant except the part that flowers and contains seeds – so vegetables are classed as roots, stems, leaves, and more. However, because an eggplant develops from the part of the plant that flowers and contains seeds, it is a fruit, not a vegetable.

Why Is An Eggplant A Berry?

To be even more specific, eggplant is a berry – yes, like a blueberry or cranberry (but not like a blackberry or a strawberry, which are not true berries).

That might sound even stranger because most of us think of berries as small, round, sweet, and juicy. Berries are generally used for desserts and preserves, and that might leave you feeling very confused about eggplants.

However, eggplants are berries because of the way that they grow. To be a berry, a fruit must have come from one flower with only one ovary, and it must form a fleshy fruit with no pit in the center. Most berries are small, soft, and juicy, and tend to be either sweet or tart. Eggplants, however, are savory, large, and not very juicy – but they are still berries.

If you have ever grown eggplants at home, you will know that they are formed when one of the plant’s flowers is pollinated and dies, allowing the fruit to develop. The fruit that forms is a single eggplant (from each flower), and this means that the eggplant is technically a berry. You can’t make jelly with it, but it’s a true berry, even though a strawberry isn’t!

Why Are Eggplants Classified As Vegetables?

Eggplants are classified as vegetables by most of the world and in day-to-day usage, of course. This is simply because we cook them like we cook other vegetables, and we use them in savory dishes – so we view them as savory food. They are not used in desserts or candies, and therefore they aren’t considered a fruit by most people.

A lot of our food categorization is based on what is practical, rather than what is scientifically correct. By grouping eggplants with other vegetables, we make it easier to purchase and cook them correctly.

If you had to go to the fruit aisle every time you wanted to pick up an eggplant or sweet pepper alongside your carrots and potatoes, you would probably feel frustrated. It makes more sense to store these foods together. If you are purchasing a box of vegetables, you’re going to see eggplants in it, rather than in a fruit box.

The colloquial use of “fruit” to mean sweet, juicy products for making desserts with or enjoying as snacks and “vegetable” to mean a savory plant product that is usually cooked into main meals may not be strictly accurate.

However, it gives us the best way of communicating what kind of food we mean, and therefore it’s the most common use.

Where Does The Name Eggplant Come From?

The name eggplant often seems at odds with the food itself; most eggplants are dark purple, and don’t look much like eggs. However, there are many varieties of eggplants, and if you’ve ever seen the white version, you’ll understand why we call them eggplants. These look very much like large eggs.

Eggplants come in a wide range of colors, and although the purple eggplants are probably the commonest seen in today’s world, the name eggplant has stuck throughout most of the United States. Of course, there are plenty of other names for this popular vegetable, including Guinea squash in some parts of the South.

Eggplants are also known as aubergines or brinjals in other parts of the world, but it’s interesting to note that they are pretty much always classed as vegetables, despite their scientific classification. 

People obviously find it better to refer to them by a word that indicates their use, rather than using a technical classification that might cause confusion. Eggplants are therefore vegetables in the eyes of most communities, including the culinary community, and if you call an eggplant a berry, you are likely to see some confusion!

Conclusion

An eggplant is a berry and a fruit if you look at the scientific definitions of these categories, but for most purposes, it is classed as a vegetable. You will find it in the vegetable aisle in your local store, and it’s commonly referred to as a vegetable unless you are looking at it from a scientific or botanical perspective.