Is an Olive a Vegetable? A Definitive Guide

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Fruits and vegetables are often classified together. But what does that exactly mean? Is an olive a vegetable? It is not easy to answer this question. Whether an olive is a fruit or vegetable can depend on the person’s perspective and context of classifying the olives. In this article, you will learn about why olives are considered vegetables and seven other fruits that you think are vegetables. To make it stick better, we shall also go over the reasons why some fruits are referred to as vegetables. We shall also look into how and why they fit the definition of a vegetable.

What is an olive classified as?

You have probably used olives in many ways, including sprinkling them over your pizza or using them to top a salad. Olives are often used as an appetizer or snack, but they can also be added to the main dish of your meal. Sometimes you will find olives in a bowl on their own, along with other snacks like grapes, cheese cubes, or some crackers.

Olives can be used in many dishes. They have been popular for centuries because they are so exquisite. This has caused people to ask the question of what olives are classified as. Whether fruit or a vegetable, it all depends on what context you are talking in.

In culinary terms, olives are mostly seen as vegetables because they are usually served as a side dish and not as the main course.

In scientific terms, olives would qualify as fruits because they come from trees and produce seeds. More specifically, olives are classified as drupes, a type that is also known as stone fruits. Other fruits in this class include mangoes, almonds, peaches, cherries, and pistachios.

Are black olives a vegetable?

Vegetables are considered plants whose parts are consumed by either humans or animals. The commonly consumed parts are the tubers, stems, and leaves and are often added in other meals. Since olives can also be added to another meal, they are also vegetables, in culinary terms, at least. So, what about the black type of olives?

Black olives are simply green olives that have ripened after being left on the tree for longer time. Interestingly, black olives have the same nutritional value as green olives. Another common thing between the black and green olives is that they contain a lot of the bitter compound – oleuropein. This substance has to be oxidized, by curing, to make the olives edible.

Scientifically, black olives are still fruits, just like the green types. They are classified under the drupes category and come from trees, like mangoes.

Why are olives vegetables?

So, why are olives vegetables? Olives fall under the category of fruits, but they also share some characteristics with other types of vegetables. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Olives are usually eaten as a whole, without the pit. This makes them similar to other vegetables eaten with their skins, such as cucumbers and zucchinis.

Also, like other types of vegetables, olives are usually picked from the tree before they ripen to keep them fresh and ready for consumption. Other vegetables (actually fruits also) like tomatoes are also picked before they fully ripen to complete ripening in transit or in the grocery store. This similarity may be a reason why some people see olives as vegetables too.

Last but not least, olives are usually eaten as a side dish or an appetizer rather than the main course or a fruit. This is similar to vegetables like carrots, peas, or green beans, usually eaten as a side dish for the main meal. Olives are commonly used to improve the taste of just about any meal, ranging from pizza to pasta.

If you have used olives in any of the three manners above, then it must have puzzled you whether they are fruits, given how they fit in as vegetables.

Other 7 fruits that you think are vegetables:

Olives are not the only misplaced or rather confused fruits- there are others we consume as vegetables, and have almost ruled them as vegetables, but science says otherwise. These are:

1. Peppers

Another fruit that is commonly consumed as a vegetable is peppers. They are prevalent in Mexican and Indian cuisine, although they can actually be found in other cuisines.

Green, yellow, and red peppers are all fruits that we eat as vegetables. They have seeds inside their fleshy parts, which is why they are classified as fruits.

Peppers are like tomatoes and eggplants. They are all plants that belong to the nightshade family. Even though they are fruits, we eat them as vegetables, primarily as spices.

2. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits globally that we have inherently known as vegetables- after all, tomatoes are primarily used in cooking and making salads and side dishes. Most people will agree that tomatoes are fruits, but for culinary purposes, they are vegetables- in fact, most people would not even think of them as fruits.

Tomatoes are very similar to avocadoes in the way that they grow on a plant and have seeds. Tomatoes are classified as berries and are closely related to other veggies, like potatoes, eggplants, and nightshades.

3. Eggplants

Even though eggplants are small and round, they are still fruits. Eggplants have seeds just like most other berries do and are classified as berries. If you think about it, eggplants on the vine look like small versions of tomatoes, which are fruits.But because people use them mostly as vegetables,they forget their true nature.

Eggplants belong to the nightshade family, which is a group of fruits that includes potatoes and tomatoes. Eggplants are usually eaten cooked, which is why they get classified as vegetables.

Fun fact: Tobacco is also in the nightshades family -quite unlikely, right?

4. Pumpkins and squash

Pumpkins and squash are also fruits that we have consumed for centuries, as vegetables. These grow on vines like apples, tomatoes, and eggplants and have seeds that make them true fruits.

They are usually roasted or boiled as a side dish for meals, just like other vegetables.

Pumpkins and squash are members of the gourd family, a family of fruits that includes cucumbers, luffas, and watermelons. Since we literally know all these as vegetables, we have similarly considered pumpkins and squashes as vegetables.

5. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are also fruits that we eat as vegetables. They grow on vines and have seeds, just like how eggplants.

Cucumbers are also members of the gourd family, like pumpkins and squashes. However, they are mostly eaten raw in salads and sandwiches, so they get classified as vegetables.

A perfect way to picture cucumbers as fruits is when they are young, and their flowers are still hanging from their vines.

6. Green beans

Green beans are also fruits that we eat as vegetables. In fact, we are so fond of green beans as vegetables that we teach our children the same. Picture when a kid doesn’t enjoy eating the green beans- the parent will typically say to them, ‘Eat your vegetables. Therefore,few may have ever thought of green beans beyond their being consumed as vegetables.

Green beans are like peas and peanuts. They are legumes, too. These plants are famous for their pods that contain seeds. This makes these beans fruits, technically, but we have been consuming them as vegetables for so long that they are now commonly known as such.

7. Okra

Okra is another fruit that we eat as vegetables. They are also known for their pods, which hold seeds like green beans and peanuts. Okra is also a fruit known for its high amounts of nutritional potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

Popular in Southern and Caribbean cuisines, okra is commonly cooked and served as a dish or side.

Okra belongs in the mallow family, whose edible green pods are used as a vegetable. The way okra is used in cooking is the primary reason it’s commonly known as a vegetable.

Bonus fruit:

8. Avocado

Avocadoes are popular throughout the world and are consumed in all different manners. A common way of having avocadoes is by making guacamole and turning it into a side dish. Although we rarely see avocadoes as vegetables in this form, they make excellent additions to dishes like salads and sandwiches. For this, we have condemned them to be vegetables.

One thing that we should not forget about avocadoes is the fact that they are actually fruits. They belong to a category of fruits called berries, which also include grapes and bananas.

Although avocadoes are classified as fruits, they may also qualify to be vegetables due to how we eat them.

Are the olives a fruit or a vegetable?

Olives are fruit growing on trees. It is their use in different dishes that has gradually placed them in the category of vegetables.

As mentioned above, green and black olives are essentially the same thing, only that black olives may ripen longer on their trees.

Olives have a seed or pit inside them, which is what makes them fruits botanically.

What food group is an olive?

Olives grow on a fruit-bearing tree called OleaEuropaea, which is also known as the “olive tree”. Olives are consequently categorized as drupes or stone fruits in a type of fruit.

Other fruits in the drupes class are cherries, plums, apricots, and peaches.

However, olives are consumed as vegetables by most people around the world, which is why they are also considered as such.

How is fruit and vegetable differentiated?

Fruit is a part of a plant that has seeds. The seeds are from the ovary of the flower. On the other hand, a vegetable is a plant whose other parts, such as stems, tubers, and leaves, are consumed by humans or animals for food. This is the distinction in botany between fruit and veggies.

The culinary distinction between a fruit and a vegetable is the taste. Whereas fruits are sweet and tart, vegetables are generally savory and salty.

This is why we usually use fruits to make juices, snacks, and desserts, while vegetables are consumed either as a main course or as aside.

Is a green olive a vegetable or a fruit?

Green olives are fruits, just like black ones. The difference is that green olives have not had a chance to ripen on the tree. Black olives have.

This is why green olives are sour and tart, while black ones have a buttery taste to them. Nevertheless, before you can consume them, olives need to be cured.

If you choose to define an olive botanically, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a green or black olive – both are simply fruits, and more specifically, drupes.

In cooking terms, green olives may be referred to as vegetables if they are included in a dessert or a salad or used as part of another meal.

Reasons for calling some fruits vegetables

There are many reasons why a fruit might be referred to as a vegetable. One of the primary reasons is because it is cooked as vegetables.

Tomatoes, for example, are botanically categorized as fruits as they contain. However, people use them in other cooked and raw meals and have thus literally been known as vegetables for centuries now.

The portion of the plant that is consumed is another reason for fruits to be considered vegetables. For example, while the potato plant produces fruits, it’s the tubers that are eaten.

Additionally, some fruits are also referred to as vegetables because they have a savory taste to them and may be used in meals. Here, avocadoes are a perfect example of fruits that have been called vegetables for their strong flavor and texture.

There is a last reason fruit may be called a vegetable, and it’s because of how the plant is grown. For example, cucumbers are botanical fruits, but people grow them in a similar manner to vegetables.

Frequently asked questions

1. Do black olives have any nutritional value?

Yes, both black olives and green olives have the same nutritional content, despite their different colors. Their fiber, vitamin C and potassium are abundant.

2. What is the advantage of consuming olive fruits?

Olives have many health benefits, including helping with digestion because of their high fiber content and preventing diabetes. Vitamin C helps with the synthesis of collagen, which is essential for skin health and cell repair, while potassium has positive effects on blood pressure.

3. Is fruit healthier than vegetables?

Yes, fruits are generally more nutritious and beneficial to your health because they are typically never cooked, unlike vegetables. However, remember that fruits have a sweet taste which implies they have more sugar, and thus calories, compared to vegetables.

4. Are olives good for you?

Yes, both black and green olives are very nutritious and contain high vitamin C and fiber levels. They are also low in fat, which means they may benefit those who need to lose some weight.

You should be wary of olives cured in sodium-based brine, as these contain up to five times the salt content. If you have sensitive blood pressure, you should definitely avoid these.

5. How many calories are in olives?

Calorie content varies from one type of olive to another, but there are about 6 calories in a single olive on average.

Wrap up

If you have been wondering whether an olive is a vegetable, I hope your curiosity has been satisfied by the information above. Also, you have learned about additional fruits generally considered as veggies.

In conclusion, it is important to note that fruits and vegetables are not mutually exclusive groups of foodstuffs. Still, there is a sizeable amount of crossover between the two definitions.

If you know of other common fruits thought of as vegetables, please share with us in the comments section.

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