Is Cantaloupe a Fruit or Vegetable? – The Sweet & Seedy Details

In Botany Cantaloupe is Considered a Fruit

In botany a fruit is defined as the seed carrying structure of a plant that come from a ripened ovary of the plant. A vegetable is every other part of the plant including the roots, stems, and leaves.

There are some produce that fit the botanical definition of a fruit that none of us think of as a fruit such as green beans, individual corn kernels, carrot seeds, and tomatoes.

A cantaloupe fits the botanical or scientific definition of a fruit because it is what grows from a pollinated ovary and because it is the seed bearing structure of the plant.

A cantaloupe plant has both male and female flowers on it. The ovary of the cantaloupe plant sits just behind the female flower. The cantaloupe flower in the picture has been successfully pollinated, at about golf ball size, and will grow into a ripe cantaloupe in about 40 days.

A cantaloupe is a part of the cucurbitaceae family, also called the gourd family, that includes squash, pumpkin, and watermelon.

How Does the Supreme Court Define Vegetables and Fruits?

In 1893 there was a court case, Nix v. Hedden, that was about the definition of tomato as a fruit or vegetable. In this case the plaintiff was a produce seller that wanted to get out of the tax on his tomato imports by calling them fruits. At the time there was a 10% tax on imported vegetables and no tax on imported fruits.

Ultimately the Supreme Court decided that the tomato was a vegetable and by taking a quick look at how they came to that conclusion we can apply their logic to other produce and see what the law would define them as.

The court called for testimony from other produce merchants and asked what the common terms they used for various produce was when talking to customers and other merchants.

Definitions from the dictionary were read by both the plaintiffs and defendants lawyers with definitions of various produce supporting the argument of both sides.

In the end the Supreme Court decided that although the tomato was botanically classified as a fruit it was in every common way thought of as a vegetable.

They also stated the culinary use of the tomato in main and side dishes served with the main course like other vegetables.

A similar court case from 1889 was cited in which a person tried to get away with not paying taxes on beans by calling them seeds.

Cantaloupe Is Used in Culinary as a Fruit

The culinary definition of fruits and vegetables has to do with when the produce is served as well as the taste and texture of it.

A fruit has a softer texture with a sweet or tart taste. A fruit is typically served as a snack or dessert. A vegetable, on the other hand, has a rougher texture with a bland or savory taste and is typically served as part of the main dish or a side dish at the main course.

Because of cantaloupes sweetness it is used in culinary dishes as a fruit.

In Horticulture Cantaloupe is a Vegetable

Horticulture is similar to agriculture in that it is the growth of plants by humans to produce a product for human use edible or not. Horticulture differs from agriculture in two ways. In horticulture a wide variety of plants are grown and they are grown on a smaller scale than commercial agricultural grow operations.

The defintion of vegetable and fruit in horticulture is very simple. A vegetable is a herbaceous plant grown as an annual and a fruit is a woody perennial.

A herbaceous annual plant is a softer plant with pliable stems and a lot of usually green growth that grows and dies every year. A woody perennial is a plant with woody firm stems or branches that comes back year after year to keep producing.

A cantaloupe is a vegetable in horticultural terms because it is a herbaceous plant that needs to be replanted each year. An example of a fruit in horticulture is most fruity trees like apples, cherries, and peaches that are woody plants that are perennials.

Dictionary Definition of Cantaloupe, Vegetable, and Fruit

Cantaloupe – a small widely cultivated muskmelon (Cucumis melo reticulatus) with a heavily netted rind and usually orange flesh

Muskmelon – a usually sweet edible melon that is the fruit of an annual trailing or climbing Asian vine (Cucumis melo) of the gourd family

Vegetable – a usually herbaceous plant (such as the cabbage, bean, or potato) grown for an edible part that is usually eaten as part of a meal

Fruit – the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant especially one having a sweet pulp associated with the seed

Merriam-Webster

A cantaloupe loosely fits into the dictionary definition of a vegetable but fits almost perfectly into the definition of fruit. Also in the definition of cantaloupe the cantaloupe is classified into the category of muskmelon and the definition of muskmelon explicitly says that it is a fruit.

Culturally

In our culture there is no doubt cantaloupes are thought of as a fruit. They are commonly found in fruit salads where they are served with other fruits. They are seldomly if ever served at a main course with carbs and proteins. Cantaloupes can be made into desserts like sorbets and ice creams.

5 Facts About Cantaloupe

  • About 90% of cantaloupes grown in the US are grown in California, Arizona, and Texas.
  • Cantaloupes get their name from the city Cantalupo, Italy, where the fruit was first grown in the 1700’s.
  • When cantaloupes are ripe they will “slip” from the vine by themselves.
  • In Australia cantaloupes are called rockmelons.
  • Cantaloupe is 90% water. Consider having a cantaloupe next time you’re feeling thirsty.

Please comment below on your own thoughts about cantaloupes as a fruit or vegetable or anything above!

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