8 Fruits You Think Are Vegetables

They're masquerading behind a lack of sweetness.

cucumbers, eggplants, and green beans are all fruits that we think are vegetables

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Botanists will tell you a tomato is a fruit, and many people already know that. But what many people don't know is that in the United States, tomatoes are legally vegetables. In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled that a tomato should be classified as a vegetable "based on the ways in which it is used, and the popular perception to this end." If you're wondering why the Supreme Court was ruling on something like this, it had to do with taxes. Vegetables at the time were taxed, but fruits were not.

Generally speaking, fruits are the seed-bearing part of a plant that requires pollination to grow and whose dissemination will spread the species further afield. Vegetables tend to be the edible stems, leaves, roots, bulbs and other parts of a plant. There is disagreement about classification in some cases, as well as confusion caused by the perceived sweetness and savoriness of various fruits and vegetables, which is what we explore in this post.

What follows is a list of fruits that we consider to be vegetables, based on popular perception and the ways they're used. These may surprise you.


hand pierces green olives with toothpicks to eat

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

If you had asked me, I might have said olives were a vegetable, not a fruit. But olives are a fruit because they come from the flower of the olive tree. A fruit comes from the mature ovary of a plant and the ovary is found in the flower. That's why all of these vegetables are technically fruit—they grow from a flower.


three purple eggplants on striped dishcloth with knife

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

We certainly treat eggplants like vegetables. I've never seen them eaten raw. They are savory and sometimes a little bitter, but never sweet. But not only are eggplants botanically fruits, they are considered berries—very, very large berries. I don't see myself throwing one into a smoothie anytime soon, though.

Pumpkins and Squash

orange pumpkins and squash sitting on the ground in a field

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Pumpkins and other types of squash, including zucchini (aka summer squash), start out from a flower on a vine that requires pollination to grow, so they're technically fruits. If you're feeling confused, you can also think of fruits as any "fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant" that encloses seeds.


hand reaches for cucumber growing on vines in vegetable garden

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Cucumbers are closely related to pumpkins and squash, and like their cousins, are technically fruit. When you see one hanging from the vine with the flower still attached at the end, it makes some sense, doesn't it?

Green Beans

hands cut up fresh green beans on wooden cutting board

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Green beans certainly seem like vegetables, don't they? When a picky child doesn't want to eat green beans, what does Mom or Dad say? "Eat your vegetables." Maybe if green beans were called a fruit, which is botanically accurate, the kid would be more inclined to eat them. The fruit designation makes sense when you think about it, though; the pods enclose small beans or seeds that sometimes taste sweet and would propagate the species if replanted.


green okra cut into little cubes in a small white bowl held by hands

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Okra's popularity has been growing in the past few years, and while it hasn't yet earned the status of an "it" vegetable like kale or cauliflower, it may still earn that moniker. If it does, you'll know it's really not an "it" vegetable; it's an "it" fruit. The entire seed-packed pod is edible and can grow up to a length of seven inches.


red, green, and yellow chile peppers in a woven basket

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

It really seems wrong that peppers are on this list, especially when you realize that something like a habanero—a pepper that's 70 times hotter than a jalapeño—is technically a fruit. But whether the pepper is on the sweet side like a bell pepper or on the super spicy side like a habanero, they are all derived from a flower and therefore are fruits.

Why Do We Call Some Fruits Vegetables?

beautifully layered ratatouille with eggplant and tomatoes in cast iron pan

Olives for Dinner / Getty Images

Why did all these fruits come to be known as vegetables? The best guess is that since they're not sweet, due to the natural sugars in them being low, people who cooked them put them in the vegetable category. There they joined the ranks of true vegetables that come from the leaves, stalks, roots, tubers and bulbs of a plant, or vegetables that are the flower of the plant, like broccoli.

But think about it. A dish such as ratatouille, made from tomato, eggplant, and squash, is, botanically speaking, just a baked fruit salad.