We know legumes as edible seeds that grow from a flower and are encased in a pod. Wait…isn’t that also describing a fruit? Are they the same thing?
The Short Answer:
Botanically speaking, legumes are a fruit, though many classify them legally as a vegetable.
The Long Answer:
When classifying legumes, things get a little dicey. In doing my research for this article, I found myself banging my head against the desk because everyone seems to have a different idea about where these pod-based growths belong.
First off, let’s define a legume. A legume is the edible seed of a plant that grows from a flower and is found in a pod. The pod has a seam that runs down the side, making them easy to open. A few common legumes are beans, peas, and peanuts.
First off, legumes are grown from the fertilized ovary of a flower. Do you know what else has that same definition?
A fruit is grown from the fertilized ovary of a flower and will contain the seeds of the plant from which it was grown. That sounds an awful lot like a legume. The pod of a legume is typically called the plant’s fruit.
This sounds like an open and shut case, right?
Not so much…
When classifying food, it often comes down to the rule of nature vs. the rule of man. We encountered this same issue while trying to determine whether tomatoes are a fruit and whether beans are a fruit. Oftentimes, botany has little to nothing to do with the classification of a food.
Sometimes it’s more about how a food is used than how it is grown. For example, rhubarb is legally a fruit. Botanically, it is a vegetable. Beans are technically a fruit, but in the late 1800’s the U.S. supreme court legally declared them a vegetable because of how they are prepared and eaten. The same thing happened with tomatoes. Botanically, they’re a fruit, hands down. But according to the U.S. government, they are legally a vegetable.
Since beans are a legume, and botanically a fruit, then it stands to reason that legumes are fruits, from a scientific perspective. But we tend to side with the rule of law here on Is This That Food, so if beans are legally considered vegetables, then so too must we consider legumes to be vegetables.
Where do you side in this battle? Are legumes fruits? Are legumes vegetables? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!