Fruits, vegetables and herbs

09 December, 2007

Question: Is a banana a fruit or a herb?

Answer: This was a new question for us. We’d been asked whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable, but no one had ever questioned us about the fruit status of a banana before.

A bunch of ripe bananas from Museum Victoria's wax fruit collection

A bunch of ripe bananas from Museum Victoria's wax fruit collection.
Photographer: John Broomfield, Source: Museum Victoria

A true fruit develops from the ovary at the base of a flower and contains the seeds of its plant. A tomato is therefore definitely a fruit. Other “vegetables” that are really fruits include capsicums, zucchinis and chillies.

A cluster of vine ripened tomatoes from Museum Victoria's wax fruit collection

A cluster of vine-ripened tomatoes from Museum Victoria's wax fruit collection.
Photographer: John Broomfield, Source: Museum Victoria

Bananas also develop from the ovaries of flowers, but where are their seeds? We’ve eaten a lot of bananas and we’ve never found any. When we did some research, we discovered that wild bananas have obvious, black seeds. Apparently, the plants of commercially-grown bananas are sterile and the seeds only develop into tiny black specs. If you look closely, you should be able to see them.

So, now that we’re sure a banana is a fruit, is it a herb? A herb is a plant whose stem does not contain any woody tissue. Banana “trees” are therefore not trees. They are herbaceous plants and should perhaps be called banana herbs.

So to answer this week's question, a banana is both a fruit and a herb.

Comments (35)

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Bob 9 June, 2009 23:39
Wow, i never knew a banana was a herb and a fruit, you learn something new everyday. THIS IS AMAZING.
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Mark 5 August, 2009 11:50
Cool! This is very interesting...thanks!
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ben 20 December, 2009 14:45
you are so wrong
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Ava 16 July, 2013 17:52
U ar rite Ben
yve 26 February, 2010 10:26
A banana is not a herb and is clearly not a tree, it is a herbaceous plant that has a thick underground stem or rhizome which is called a corm. The trunk is known as a psuedostem made up of tighly rolled leaves that only unfurl at the top.
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SC 11 March, 2010 20:38
actually.. i went to a banana plantation a couple of months ago in Tenerife, the owner, Francisco has owned and run the majority of the banana plantations for over 60 years and even he said bananas are a fruit AND a herb.
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Emily and thomas 9 April, 2010 12:05
You helped us solve an argument. Thanks so much. We were both right
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Ellen 4 May, 2010 08:51
Yes, like with Emily and Thomas, you helped us solve an argument. Although he still insists he was right, and I was wrong.
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Lily 12 May, 2010 20:17
Intresting. Though I have always put in my bananas are a fruit, hmmm
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Rikaya 13 May, 2010 17:56
You know how it is a fruit and a herb.I want to know why it is fruit and herb.
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Discovery Centre 14 May, 2010 14:52

Hi Rikaya, the infosheet explains why a banana is both a fruit and a herb. Have a read of the text above and you should be able to find the answer.

David 23 August, 2010 05:45
"A herb is a plant whose stem does not contain any woody tissue". Err... are you telling me that rosemary is not a herb then?
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Discovery Centre 30 August, 2010 15:53

Hi David! The confusion here lies in the definition of "herb". Most people think of a herb as tasty vegetable matter used in cooking; the word herb really has two separate meanings as indicated by these Macquarie Dictionary definitions:

"1: a flowering plant whose stem above ground does not become woody and persistent
2:  such a plant when valued for its medicinal properties, flavour, scent or the like."

This suggests that rosemary fits the definition of a herb in a culinary sense, but not in a botanical one.

What gets confusing is when a culinary plant is called a herb but is not used as a herb in a culinary sense!

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Reuben 2 November, 2012 16:47
i would think that you would use a scientific term rather than a vaguery such as herb. A "banana" as it is does not exist in nature.
Dab 21 September, 2010 01:02
This answers a lot, thanks !!
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Bridgette 7 October, 2010 16:41
Very Helpful :)
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Kathryn 19 November, 2010 09:49
This was on a chatterbox that the students were making and I was surprised when some of the students new the answer. Yes a banana is an herb.
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stevea 18 January, 2011 01:07
Thanks for answering a question that i have often rowed over that a banana is a herb. What i did not know is that it is also a fruit!!
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EB 2 June, 2011 19:10
AMAZING!
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Hassa 23 June, 2011 14:07
There are many herbaceous plants that are not herbs , someone has shortened the plant type and called it a herb. Banana is a fruit pure and simple.
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Dave W 5 September, 2011 12:45
I think the Banana is the fruit of a herbaceous plant!
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cassie e 6 September, 2011 17:14
i'm sure bananas are not herbs
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bananaman 31 October, 2011 15:27
herb, herbaceous plant or fruit one thing for sure is that they contain potassium and is plentiful in all those yummy nutrients vital for our bodies nourishment and stomachs satisfaction!!! so be like me and dont argue over what it is...... it is deliciously beautiful so just enjoy its nutritional values and its aesthetics as it stands proud, long and yellow
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B2 23 November, 2011 16:01
Thanks for clarifying that for me. B1 and I have had quite an identity crisis since the debate began in Cuddlestown. Now I can tell everyone that we're herbs... or was it fruit. Either way we're still Bananas in Pyjamas
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Davros 25 April, 2012 13:57
Is that so!
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chloe <3 amie 23 May, 2012 00:17
this is true, bananas are actually both! boom
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turtle3 25 May, 2012 18:11
i remember last year in class one of my riends just blurted out that bananas were herbs and we couldnt stop laughing for ages
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Tori 30 July, 2012 02:32
I remember hearing from my teacher that a banana plant is a rhizome and she went to a plantation as well. When you look at how it grows, it makes perfect sense...
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Michael 21 September, 2012 22:08
Basil, parsley, mint, sage, thyme, bananas. I don't think so!
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ray 9 December, 2012 16:11
some are saying bananas have seeds in their centers true but they are grown from seeds suckers from the butt of the tree is where you multiply your trees
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Nigel 6 July, 2013 20:28
The confusion is all down to semantics. A banana is definitely a fruit, it just happens to be the fruit of a herb(acious) plant. 'Herbs' (in the common culinary usage) are normally the leaves and/or stems of a herb(acious) plant. If you're still not convinced, what is an apple - is it a tree because that's the sort of plant it grows on, or is a grape a vine? A fruit is part of the reproductive system of a plant, irrespective of the type of plant.
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Rhys 13 August, 2013 16:18
And that is exactly why it is both Nigel.
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hey jfc 27 September, 2013 02:22
bananas are god's fruit and they are wonderful and quite firm they are yummalicious
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wiki says 1 December, 2013 16:21
Botanically, a banana is also a berry
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Anonymous 8 August, 2014 22:40
Thank you, it was very helpful to prove a point to someone and actually find the right information.
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