Sheepa Miah
Sheepa Miah
29 October 2017

Are pickles a fruit or vegetable?

What is a Pickle?

A gherkin (UK), or pickle (U.S.) is a small cucumber that has been pickled and fermented in vinegar, or brine, with herbs such as dill. The distinctive sour flavour of pickles is achieved through the process of lacto-fermentation.

Pickles are made from a particular type of cucumber known as the West Indian or ‘burr’ gherkin. Much smaller than salad cucumber varieties, pickle gherkins have a warty surface and originally come from Africa but are naturalised in the West Indies and parts of the USA and South America.

Once the gherkins have been pickled and fermented they are used with hors-d'oeuvres, as a snack or commonly under the bun of a burger. They’re crisp, sharp and tangy. Typically they also have a strong flavour of dill or other pickling spices such as mustard seed, allspice, coriander seeds, cloves, bay, ginger or cinnamon.

So... Are Pickles a Fruit or a Vegetable?

It’s not easy to definitively say if pickles are fruits or vegetables - it depends on how you are using the word.

Technically speaking, pickles are fruits. This is because, although cucumbers are commonly seen as vegetables, they are actually the seed-containing fruits of the cucumber plant - which, incidentally, is a type of squash (like pumpkins).

For culinary purposes, however, fruits such as tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and squashes are regarded as vegetables - mainly for convenience, as they are usually used for savoury dishes so fit into that category more readily. So, from that point of view, pickles are (causally at least) considered to be vegetables.

Horticulturally (and biologically) speaking, pickles are definitely fruits - the same as oranges and apples as they contain the seeds of the plant, surrounded by fleshy matter. According to botany, fruits are the seed-bearing structures of flowering plants - so, from that perspective too, pickles are indeed fruits.

That’s that cleared up then. Sort of.

  • Pickle
  • Gherkin
  • Lacto Fermentation

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