Strawberries Aren't Actually Berries — Here's What They Are

There's more to strawberries than meets the eye.

A bowl of strawberries

Abby Mercer/AllRecipes

As temperatures across the U.S. rise, strawberry season is upon us. And as crops continue to ripen, we'll enjoy bundles of this juicy red treat for months to come. Do some digging, however, and you'll find people across the Internet questioning whether strawberries are a fruit or (gasp!) a vegetable like rhubarb.

Technically, a fruit is the part of a plant that contains seeds. And when you think of a strawberry, you probably picture it dotted with tiny, yellow seed-like specks. Surely, this makes it a fruit, right?

Well, what look like seeds on strawberries are actually the fruits, Vance Whitaker, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Florida who specializes in strawberry breeding and genetics, told Allrecipes.

Yes, each of these tiny "seeds," known as achenes, is actually a fruit with a seed inside it. The average strawberry contains about 200 achenes. This means with every strawberry, you're eating many, many fruits.

"We eat the red, fleshy part that carries the fruit," Whitaker says. This is called the receptacle. "Essentially, it's the [part of the] stem just under the flower that ripens and has the color, flavor, and nutrients that we think of."

Is a strawberry a vegetable?

Vegetables are the edible leaves, stalks, and stems of plants — with the exception of parts that belongs to the plant's reproductive system. Though the strawberry receptacle is part of the stem, it also holds the plant's ovaries.

So, strawberries are not vegetables. But they're not berries.

Why isn't a strawberry a berry?

To the average person, berries include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Yet, the botanist doesn't consider any of these plants berries. Why?

True berries, like blueberries, develop from the ovary of a flower and consist of seeds and pulp. Raspberries and blackberries, meanwhile, consist of many ovaries merged together as one flower. This makes them aggregate fruits.

Strawberries, by definition, are accessory fruits. This means the fruit develops not from the ovary but from another part of the plant. Strawberries contain a significant amount of tissue from the receptacle, and this bars them from being true berries.

So, next time you're picking strawberries or serving a strawberry shortcake, remember these interesting fruit facts to stump — we mean share with — your crew.


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