It has been a periodically recurring discussion in our family whether a particular food we had for dinner was a vegetable or a fruit. In fact, all my kids have asked this question at one point or another. And oftentimes they did not quite believe me when I told them that the tomato that I was cutting for our salad was a fruit.
So, today, during our science lesson we looked at the discrepancy between the scientific definition of a fruit and the common definition of a fruit. I drew some inspiration from the KidsGardening website. The lesson does not need a lot of preparation. I gathered some examples of fruits and vegetable we had in the house and placed them on our kitchen table. At first, our youngest just named what he saw.
Next, we talked about the importance of seeds and how they disseminate. This naturally led to the scientific definition of a fruit as the part of the plant that carries seeds – which would make the tomato a fruit. We then looked at a Supreme Court decision from 1893 (Nix v. Hedden) that distinguished between the botanical and the culinary definition of fruit and determined the tomato to be a vegetable within the meaning of the Tariff Act of 1883. So things are sometimes not as straightforward as one thinks!
Now, it was time to vote. We went through the whole pile of produce in front of us and each of us indicated whether a specific item was a fruit or a vegetable. I emphasized that this was a personal decision. We compiled our results in a table and then drew a Venn Diagram with one circle representing fruit and the other vegetable. In the overlapping section we wrote fruits that are commonly referred to as vegetables.
While this lesson is primarily geared towards early elementary kids, you can easily scale it up for higher grade levels by incorporating more scientific or philosophical elements. And the best part? As an illustration of the smooth transition between fruit and vegetable, you can bake a chocolate zucchini bread together 😉! Enjoy!