Most people can easily tell fruits and vegetables apart.
However, the distinction between different types of fruit is less clear — and you may particularly wonder how a banana should be classified.
This article tells you whether a banana is a fruit or a berry.
The word fruit is used to describe the sweet, fleshy, seed-holding structures of a flowering plant.
A fruit is the reproductive organ of such plants, and its main function is to distribute seeds to new areas where the plant may grow. Fruits can be divided into two main categories: fleshy or dry (1).
Dry fruits are foods we don’t typically think of as fruit, such as nuts, legumes and coconuts.
On the other hand, fleshy fruits are the types we’re accustomed to — common fruits, such as apples, cherries and bananas.
Fleshy fruit can be further subdivided into simple fruits, aggregate fruits or multiple fruits. Berries are a subcategory of simple fleshy fruit (1).
Therefore, all berries are fruit but not all fruits are berries.
Fruits are the reproductive organs of a flowering plant. They can be divided into several subcategories, one of which is berries.
As surprising as this may sound, botanically speaking, bananas are considered berries.
The category a fruit falls under is determined by the part of the plant that develops into the fruit. For instance, some fruits develop from flowers containing one ovary while others develop from flowers containing several (1).
What’s more, a fruit’s seeds are surrounded by three main structures:
- Exocarp: The skin or outer part of the fruit.
- Mesocarp: The flesh or middle part of the fruit.
- Endocarp: The Inner part that encloses the seed or seeds.
The main characteristics of these structures further contribute to the fruit’s classification (1).
For instance, to be considered a berry, a fruit must develop from one single ovary and generally have a soft exocarp and fleshy mesocarp. The endocarp must also be soft and may enclose one or more seeds (2).
Bananas fulfill all of these requirements. They develop from a flower containing one single ovary, have a soft skin and a fleshy middle. Moreover, bananas contain several seeds which many people don’t notice as they’re small.
Bananas develop from a flower with one single ovary, have a soft and sweet middle and contain one or more seeds. Therefore, they fulfill the requirements of botanical berries.
Many are surprised to learn that bananas are classified as berries.
Most people think of berries as small fruits that can be picked of plants, such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. However, botanically, these fruits aren’t considered berries.
That’s because rather than developing from flowers with one ovary, they develop from flowers with multiple ovaries. That is why they’re often found in clusters and categorized as aggregate fruit (3).
On the other hand, bananas and other fruit that fall under the berry classification rarely contain the word “berry” in their name and aren’t typically thought of as berries.
The confusion started when people began calling certain fruits “berries” thousands of years before botanists came up with a precise classification of the different types of fruit.
That’s also why the word “fruit” is used to qualify most fruits, including bananas — instead of the name of the subcategory under which they fall.
Fruits were named thousands of years before botanists came up with an official classification. This is a main reason why bananas don’t contain the word “berry” in their name and aren’t thought of as such.
Bananas aren’t the only surprising fruit to fall under the berry subcategory.
Here are other unexpected fruits that are considered berries — botanically speaking (2):
Just like bananas, all of the fruits above develop from flowers containing one ovary, have a fleshy middle and contain one or more seeds. This makes them botanical berries, despite rarely being thought of as such.
Tomatoes, grapes, kiwis, avocados, peppers, eggplants and guavas are some other fruits that fulfill the requirements to be considered botanical berries. Yet, like bananas, they’re seldom thought of as such.
Berries are a subcategory of fruits, the sweet, fleshy, seed-holding structures of a flowering plant.
Bananas develop from a flower with a single ovary and have a soft skin, fleshy middle and small seeds.
As such, they meet all botanical requirements of a berry and can be considered both a fruit and berry.