Bite into a crunchy gherkin (because the best gherkins are always crunchy) and the last thing you'll think of is "sweet," but your dill obsession is ALL LIES. That's because cucumbers are - news flash - technically fruits.
Just like tomatoes, pumpkins, and avocados, cukes count as vegetables in terms of supermarket organization, but not in the world of science. Botanically speaking, they're more akin to watermelon and squash than carrots or lettuce. The truth is in the seeds.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fruit is "the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant enclosing the seed or seeds." Likewise, Merriam-Webster defines it as "the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant."
In the botany world, cucumbers further get classified as pepos, a type of berry with a hard outer rind and no internal divisions. Pumpkins, zucchini, and watermelons also go in this category. In fact, they all belong to the same gourd family, Cucurbitaceae.
If it seems like everything's a fruit (and your know-it-all friend won't shut up about it), rest assured the are plenty of actual vegetables in the world. They're all the other edible parts of plants like the leaves (spinach), stem (asparagus), roots (turnips), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (onions), and flowers (artichokes).
While growers and chefs may still treat cucumbers as vegetables, they're a solid food choice however you slice it.
"Cucumbers are an easy, nutritionally dense veggie filled with water and fiber," says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. The negligible amount of calories in each cuke (just 16 in an entire cup!) means it's the perfect vehicle for spreads and dips - like London's favorites, hummus, goat cheese, and feta.
What about your beloved brine-soaked sours? "Gherkins are a great choice too," she says. "They help satisfy a 'crunchy snack' hankering, have all of the salty glory of some less-nutritious items like fried chips, and provide the benefit of still being a vegetable."
Or a fruit - but you don't have to think about that the next time you twist open a jar.
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