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Fruit vs. Vegetables



Definitions from Wiktionary:

Vegetable - A plant raised for some edible part of it, such as the leaves, roots, fruit or flowers, but excluding any plant considered to be a fruit, grain, herb, or spice in the culinary sense.
Fruit - The seed-bearing part of a plant, often edible, colourful and fragrant, produced from a floral ovary after fertilization.

We grow many plants which we think of as vegetables, but they are actually fruits (whole or part) - peas, tomatoes and peppers to name but a few. There are fewer examples of the opposite case, but rhubarb is one that springs readily to mind. For those more interested in growing flowers than edible crops, the flower is the first stage of the fruit, and should be treated as a fruit in terms of fertiliser.

What does it matter?


Fruits and vegetables need different treatment in terms of soil and fertiliser. For example if you regularly feed onions or cabbages with something like tomato food, they will be far more likely to produce flowers and go to seed, which is not generally desirable. Conversely, a high-nitrogen feed will promote lots of green growth on your tomatoes, which will then produce a lot less fruit.


Doing it right

From a gardening, rather than a culinary perspective, a vegetable may be defined as a plant which is grown with the intention of eating (mainly) the roots, stems or leaves. Familiar vegetables are things like carrots, potatoes, lettuce, cabbages, onions and beetroot. Each plant will have specific needs in terms of nutrients, but generally all will benefit from high nitrogen levels. This can be added to the soil by incorporating fresh compost or leaf mould, or by the use of high-nitrogen fertilisers. Nitrogen is the "N" number on the fertiliser packaging.


Annual fruiting crops will also benefit from a relatively high nitrogen content in the soil for their early growth, but rather than just having lots of lush foliage, the aim is usually to promote plenty of flowers, resulting in lots of fruit, seeds or both. Generally, these crops should be started off as seedlings in fresh compost, or with a small amount of nitrogen incorporated into the soil. Once the plants begin to flower it is time to change tack - stop adding nitrogen and start adding phosphorus and potassium fertilisers, which are the "P" and "K" values on the packaging. These minerals will help to promote more flowers and fruit to form.


Common Plant List


Fruit used as Vegetables

Vegetables used as Fruit

Aubergines Rhubarb
Chilli Peppers  
Courgette (Zucchini)  
Globe Artichokes  
Sweet Peppers  


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