Everything I've Known About Vegetables is Wrong

April 22, 2021
How many people knew that vegetables aren't....actually....vegetables? 

In the four months I've been on TikTok, I've uncovered several fascinating things. 

  • Fascinating Thing #1: I'm too old to do a dance challenge.
  • Fascinating Thing #2: I've been folding things the wrong way my entire life.
  • Fascinating Thing #3: There is no such thing as a vegetable. 

Excusemesaywhatnow? 

Before you click off of this post and vow to never read anything by me again, bear with me. A TikTok Video about the characters on the show VeggieTales not actually being vegetables got me curious. 

In the video, the TikToker throws down botany facts about what vegetables actually are: 

  • A tomato is a fruit (yeah, we know this one) but also a berry.
  • Broccoli is a flower
  • A carrot is a root
  • A potato is a tuber
  • A cucumber is a melon
  • And lettuce? We all know that's leaves

Not being one to believe every Tom, Dick, and TikTok I run across, I started Googling for the cold hard facts about my favorite veggie snacks.  Lo and behold, the TikToker was right. After digging into the research, I unearthed some additional information. From a biological perspective there is no such thing as a vegetable; just plants. That's according to this piece on BBC EarthWhen the author asked Wolfgang Stuppy, research leader in Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology at the UK's Royal Botanic Gardens,  whether vegetables existed, his response was pretty cut and dry: “No, not botanically. The term vegetable doesn’t exist in botanical terminology." 

Amy Litt, director of plant genomics and Cullman curator at The New York Botanical Garden explained the same thing, “The term vegetable has no meaning in botany.” 

But what about all of those recommended servings of vegetables everyone is telling me I need to eat to stay healthy? Apparently moms, dads, nutritionists, dieticians, chefs, and every food processor I've ever talked to is calling them the wrong thing. Sort of. 

According to the dictionary, the term vegetable is used to define anything living that isn’t animal or mineral. That makes sense, right? But when it boils down to consumption of said non-animals and non-minerals, what we're all shoving into our mouths is actually fruits and plants.

This new-found vegetable information isn't going to change anything, other than I'm going to totally kill it even more now during Trivia night. The Jolly Green Giant isn't going to suddenly turn into Captain Green Flower nor is Birdseye going to change its bags of frozen goods to "Mixed Plants 'n Fruits."

I could go on with all of the fruit and plant parts we've been told are part of our regular servings of vegetables, but that's what Google is for. All I know is the next time I'm shucking corn, snapping peas, or contemplating an existential crisis with an eggplant in my hands, that I'm really just enjoying the fruits of my labor... all because of a TikTok video.