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Is Corn a Veggie, a Fruit, or Something Else?

July 4, 2010

Happy National BBQ Day AKA July 4th!

So, I asked my friends:

If you BBQ any corn, tomatoes, & other greens..or eat some yummy watermelons, mangoes & other fruits, please Twitpic or add it to our photo album “Let’s see it from the folks!” Enjoy!

Then, my friend Teionna twitpic her July 4th dish.  Hailing from Oakland, she is a medical school-bound student who just earned her B.S. Microbiology at San Francisco State University.  (CONGRATS again!)

corn

However, along with this photo, she told us on Twitter:

@5ers I’m eating my veggie but according to @X’s friend corn is not a veggie

When I received this tweet, I remembered someone telling me that corn is not a vegetable.  Well, apparently, corn is a vegetable, a fruit, and a grain, depending on what form it is in.  According to eXtension.org’s FAQ:

Corn seed is actually a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit.

Corn seed is a vegetable because it is harvested for eating. (Usually sweet corn when grain is harvested at the milk stage.)

Corn seed is a grain because it is a dry seed of a grass species. (Usually field corn when harvested after the grain is relatively dry.)

Corn seed is a fruit because that is the botanical definition.

More details follow.

Corn (Zea mays) is sometimes called a vegetable grain. Corn is a monocotyledon with only one seed leaf like grasses. The easily identified “grains” (or cereal plants/grasses) such as wheat, oats, and barley are also monocots. A grain is defined as the harvested dry seeds or fruit of a cereal grass, or the term can refer to the cereal grasses collectively.

Field corn that is harvested when the seeds are dry would thus be considered a grain. Sweet corn when harvested before maturity is usually considered a vegetable. It is grown to be eaten fresh as a tender vegetable rather than as a dried grain suitable for grinding into flour or meal. A vegetable is defined as a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds/fruit.

If you want to be very precise, all cereal grains could be called vegetables, but by convention we separate the cereal grains from the rest of the “vegetables” such as peas, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage, etc.

eXtension.org is an interactive nationwide collaborative learning hub of “the best, most researched knowledge” from more than 70 land-grant universities across the United States, including Cornell University, Tuskegee University, University of California, University of Guam, etc. (see full list here).  It actually has some great resources on fruits & vegetables that I might explore later.  So, check this website out!

So yeah, Teionna, you can tell your friend that corn is not only a veggie, it’s also a fruit & a grain!  So, corn is a 5er’s friend.

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