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. 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.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.
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 persistent2: 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!
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.
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