If you guessed fruit, you would be correct! Actually, any of the three answers are correct in some sense. Cucumbers are in fact fruits (and also berries) from a scientific standpoint, and they’re vegetables from an everyday culinary standpoint.
Interestingly cucumbers belong to the same family (gourds) as melons, squashes, and pumpkins, making them all fruits! This is because in botany, the true classification of fruits and vegetables depends on which part of the plant it’s grown from.
What makes a cucumber a fruit?
While you won’t be finding any cucumbers in a fruit salad, scientists agree that cucumbers are fruits. Cucumbers grow from flowers and contain seeds which can be used to grow more cucumber plants. This ability to grow new plants from seeds contained in the fruit is what makes fruits – fruits. On the other hand vegetables grow from the other parts of a plant such as the stems, leaves and roots. Examples of vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, and beets.
Cucumbers are not the only fruits causing confusing about its classification. You might be surprised to learn that squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and avocados are also scientifically classified as fruits.
To blow your mind even more, since cucumbers are a fruit that develops from a single ovary/flower, they’re considered berries from a botanical standpoint. So are avocados!
It was tomatoes that first sparked the big “fruit vs. vegetable” debate. It began way back in 1886 when an importer, John Nix, was asked to pay a levy for foreign vegetables on a load of tomatoes, which he refused on account of tomatoes being fruits. The case was eventually settled by the Supreme Court in 1893 when Justice Horace Gray ruled that tomatoes are vegetables. Which makes total sense in the kitchen…
Like the court-appointed tomatoes, in the world of all things food and diet related, the flavor and texture of cucumbers earns it a place next to all the other vegetables in culinary circles.
While fruits are more likely to be used in dessert dishes owing to their sweet, tangy, or tart flavor profiles and softer textures, vegetables are best suited for savory dishes where their tougher textures and more bitter flavors shine.
But whether you call a cucumber a fruit or you choose to call them vegetables, we can all agree they make a healthy snack.
Nutrition information: Cucumbers
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a serving of 4 to 5 fruits and vegetables day. Packed with nutrients and low in calories, filling up on cucumbers are refreshing and simple way to include more fruits (or vegetables) in your daily diet.
Here’s the breakdown for one medium raw, unpeeled cucumber (200g):
Yup, just 30 calories! In addition to being made up of a lot of water and a little fiber, cucumbers give you some key vitamins and minerals including vitamin K.
If you want to get the most nutrients from cucumbers storing them properly is a must. Avoiding soft and withered cucumbers begins at the store. Always choose firm crisp, bright cucumbers. Only wash cucumbers just before you use them. And lastly, store them in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Experiment a little
Cucumbers are popular additions to salads and sandwiches, fresh or pickled but with a little imagination their uses goes beyond that. The next time you’re in the mood for something new try these:
– Upgrade your plain water by adding a few slices of cucumber and mint to freshen
– Or try a cool cucumber juice or a green smoothie.
– Or even a refreshing gazpacho!
More heated “fruit vs. vegetable” debates:
Botanists would say “no” since pickles are just pickled cucumbers, which are technically fruit. But from a practical, culinary standpoint, cucumbers are vegetables.
Pro tip: most store brand of pickles are boiled and soaked in pickle juice, which means they lack the probiotics found in fermented pickles. Look for ‘fermented’ on the label the next time you’re buying pickles.
They’re not too shabby, especially since it’s a snack that keeps you from reaching for junk! A regular-sized cucumber is just 30 calories and packs in its fair share of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Even a little calcium and iron.