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By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 27, 2001

how fruity
vegetables that aren’t what they seem


Every food editor has stood corrected by precise readers who let us know when we call a fruit a vegetable. The problem is that we eat many fruits as vegetables. In the past 10 weeks in Dish, we've implored you to eat your veggies, tantalizing you with tidbits about popular plant food. Now we can tell you the truth: Some of the veggies we highlighted are really fruits.

Eggplant and crookneck squash are fruits. Technically, so are green beans. Other fruits that we eat as vegetables are tomatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, avocados, cucumber and green peppers. How can this be? Aren't fruits sweet and juicy, to be eaten out of hand and raw?

The difference between fruits and vegetables is purely botanical and has nothing to do with taste. Simply put, a vegetable is an edible root (potato), stem (asparagus) or leaf (lettuce) of a herbaceous plant. Just about everything else is a fruit. A fruit has a seed, or pit, something for an animal or the wind to scatter. Think about it: bananas, apples, oranges, raspberries, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, acorn squash and zucchini all have seeds. They are fruits.

For the rest of the summer, watch this space for Fruit Cocktail, a look at the sweet bounty of summer. And we promise: There won't be a "vegetable" in the bunch.

constant comment

"At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely." -- author Somerset Maugham

this web site cooks

We hear more and more about busy people hiring personal chefs to come into their homes to prepare meals. Somebody has to provide the service. Why not you? These Web sites provide a support system for personal chef wanna-bes and those already in the biz. They include information on training, seminars and setting up a business.

cooking class

When measuring honey, lightly oil the container before measuring and the honey won't stick.

the green monster

In the movie Moulin Rouge, the liqueur absinthe is featured prominently, from the Cafe Absinthe sign to the green fairy flitting in the skies above those drinking it. Absinthe, made from the hallucinogenic herb wormwood among other things, was popular among Bohemian artists of late 19th century France, the movie's setting. They believed that mind-altering properties enhanced creativity. The drink's green hue contributed to its romantic nickname La Fee Verte, or the green fairy (played in the movie by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue). Wormwood is banned in the United States and many other Western countries. Contemporary drinks with some of the same ingredients as absinthe, minus the wormwood, are Pernod, Herb Sainte, vermouth and Benedictine.

cook it good

The latest theory about composer Wolfgang Mozart's death at age 35 in 1791 suggests that undercooked pork chops did him in. His documented fever, rash, limb pain and swelling point to trichinosis, says Seattle researcher Dr. Jan. V. Hirschmann. He apparently had eaten pork cutlets in the days before his death. We take this opportunity to remind you that pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. Use something Mozart didn't: a meat thermometer.

for the pampered pooch

Taking Fido along on the family picnic? Then OurPets of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, hopes you'll also take along its Pet Picnic, a Lunchable of sorts for dogs. The traveling canine meal includes a 16-ounce bottle of water and one serving of dog food; the disposable carrying case becomes the bowls for each. The serving is one size feeds all, whether St. Bernard or toy poodle. To find a pet store near you that sells it, call toll-free 1-800-565-2695. Retail price is $4.99.

the peach is out there

[University of Florida]

University of Florida fruit breeders have developed a new peach they've dubbed the UFO, owing to its saucerlike appearance. The peach was created by adding a gene that creates extra-firm flesh to an existing saucer-shaped peach that is popular in Asia, says professor Wayne Sherman. The fruit won't be available commercially because it doesn't ship well, but the trees thrive from Tampa Bay north. There should be plenty in local garden centers this winter, Sherman says.

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