Science Says Cucumbers Belong in Fruit Salad

Cucumbers are one of the most popular veggies at the store. Crisp and soft, 'cukes' are ideal in many meals or as a side dish. Cucumbers are often found among the vegetables, yet some people will say it's a fruit.

What is a cucumber?

Cucumber in the garden

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Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are members of the gourd family (cucurbitaceae). There are two distinct types of cucumbers. First we have slicing cucumbers. Second, there are pickling cucumbers. This is the cucumber you probably pick up at the store. It can be served raw like a bell pepper and makes a great snack in the culinary world.

Cucumbers have some decent health benefits, but that doesn't help differentiate whether they're a fruit or a vegetable. Both fruits and vegetables can come from flowering plants, so it's hard to solve the cucumber-fruit mystery based on plant type as well. So, how can we get to the bottom of this? It all has to do with the botanical definition, and that involves what part of a plant the produce comes from.

"A fruit develops from the flower of a plant, while the other parts of the plant are categorized as vegetables. Fruits contain seeds, while vegetables can consist of roots, stems and leaves," Healthline reported. Cucumbers usually have seeds in them. So in botanical terms, does that mean they came from the flower of the plant?

How about trying a taste test. "From a culinary perspective, fruits and vegetables are classified based on taste. Fruits generally have a sweet or tart flavor and can be used in desserts, snacks or juices. Vegetables have a more mild or savory taste and are usually eaten as part of a side dish or main course." This is tricky because eating cucumbers mostly involves water, due to their high water content like watermelons or cantaloupe. Side note: This hydration is why they're excellent when used in beauty products. Still, watermelon and cantaloupe definitely have a distinct sweetness that English cucumbers lack.  If we're comparing taste, cucumbers are hardly enjoyed for dessert. They're used in savory dishes or sides such as a fruit salad.

Is Cucumber a Fruit?

Fresh cucumber slices on a wooden cutting board

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According to science, we're happy to report that a cucumber, regardless of how we feel, is a fruit. It comes from the ovary part of the plant, meaning that the seeds are used for reproduction. But if you ask anyone with culinary sense, you might get a few different opinions. While cucumbers taste great in light smoothies, they would be frowned upon in fruit salads. Likewise, serving cucumbers in a stir fry isn't that common.

The way people enjoy cucumbers says a lot about them. Technically a cucumber plant can be a fruit or a vegetable. We aren't all botanists, but we can pretend to be. As long as you can keep from mixing up cucumbers for zucchini, you're probably doing alright.

READ MORE: 12 Reasons Why You Should be Adding Cucumber to Your Drinks