Everyone knows what berries are, right?
Sweet, juicy summer favorites commonly include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Of course, in the world of botany, you'd be wrong on most counts.
What are berries?
Botanically, a berry is “a [simple] fleshy fruit, without a stone, produced from a single flower, containing one ovary.” (Wikipedia) Fruits are the mature ovaries of one or more flowers. When a single ovary is fertilized to produce a fruit, it is called a berry. The fleshy part we find so tasty is made from the pericarp.
Berries that are not berries
With that definition in mind, we learn that strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are not berries at all. Strawberries are what’s known as ‘accessory’ fruits. The flesh of an accessory fruit is not made from the ovary. Instead, it is a protective growth from surrounding tissue. Blackberries and raspberries are ‘aggregate’ fruits. Aggregate fruits are made from single flowers, but many ovaries that are held together in a cluster. Speaking of clusters, what about grapes?
Fruits that are berries
Yep, grapes are, by definition, berries. In fact, plants that produce berries are called ‘bacciferous’. [I wonder if that name comes from Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.] There are many fruits, other than grapes, that we would never call ‘berries’ even though they are. Consider many of your favorite garden plants. Do they have fruit? Are they from a single ovary? Are they without a stone? It ends up, tomatoes, cucumbers, kiwi, peppers, eggplants, persimmons, pumpkins, and watermelons are all berries! Even coffee beans, allspice, and bananas are berries!
Of course, scientists are still working out the details, but now you can amaze and baffle your friends with your new knowledge about garden plants!
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.