Cucumbers are typically known as vegetables, but are they really fruits?
The Short Answer
Yes and no. Cucumbers are considered to be a vegetable by horticulture standards and a fruit when looked at through the world of botany.
The Long Answer
Vegetable vs. Fruit is one of my favorite topics to discuss because it’s so open ended. (I really fought hard to avoid the “something I can sink my teeth into” line, but I feel the need to include it here anyway to let you know that my cliché pun struggle is very real)
When you look at cucumbers, arguments can be made that it is both a fruit and a vegetable. Horticulturalists and botanists tend to butt heads on this topic frequently and both make a solid case. Much as I did while discussing the classification of tomatoes, I’ll present both sides of the argument here, give you my opinion and let you come to your own conclusions.
In the world of horticulture, it is stated that if something grows on a herbaceous plant (no woody stem above the ground) it is a vegetable and if it grows on a woody plant (produces wood as its structural tissue like a tree or shrub) then it is a fruit. A cucumber grows on a herbaceous plant (despite childhood stories of a pickle tree) and so, in the eyes of a horticulturalist, cucumbers are vegetables.
Botanists see fruit as something that develops from a flower, which all cucumbers do. So, botanists insist that cucumbers should be classified as fruits.
I think that to truly make a decision about whether something is a fruit or vegetable, you need to look at it from a cultural and culinary perspective. Cucumbers are a fixture of garden salads and not fruit salads. It is often eaten with dinner, not dessert. You always find cucumbers in the vegetable section of the grocery store, not the fruit baskets. I think from that angle, I have no choice but to declare cucumbers a vegetable.
What do you think? Are cucumbers a fruit or vegetable? Sound off and let us know!