Are Potatoes Vegetables or Fruits? The Truth Revealed
Are potatoes vegetables or fruits? That’s one intriguing question. People have been debating whether they are vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers, or something else for a long time. Still, many have also failed to unveil the mystery. But no need to worry. The answer is finally here!
Potatoes are definitely vegetables, both botanically and culinary speaking. They originate from plants grown yearly for their edible tubers, which develop from the plants’ roots. According to the USDA, there are five vegetable subgroups: the dark-green, beans and peas, starchy, red and orange, and other. Potatoes belong to the subgroup called starchy vegetables.
Certainly, you must have noticed that potatoes aren’t treated exactly like other vegetables. In reality, people look at them more like grains such as wheat or rice. Not many classify them as veggies, similar to lettuce or spinach, and there is an explanation for that.
Why do Potatoes Differ from Other Vegetables?
Potatoes consist primarily of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are composed of sugar molecules that are linked to each other, forming what is commonly called a complex carbohydrate.
Now, even though they are full of nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6 and have a decent amount of protein, their carbohydrate content places them in the area of high carbs foods such as grains instead of vegetables.
You see, in the typical plate provided by the USDA, a healthy meal should consist of grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy on the side (info). Since grains are known to be the main source of carbohydrates on the plate, potatoes cannot take the place of vegetables because they are also high in carbohydrates.
Doing so would make meals too unbalanced and excessively high on carbs. So instead, they are considered grains for that purpose and not vegetables.
Veggies such as lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, and others are very low on carbohydrates and high on vitamins and minerals. For that reason, nutritionists recommend they take the place of vegetables on the meal plate.
Do Potatoes Count as 5 a day?
Unfortunately, potatoes do not count as part of the 5 a day. Although the world health organization recommends consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, potatoes are not considered vegetables for that purpose. Why is that?
Well, while it is true that potatoes are a good source of an abundance of nutrients, there are also a lot of not super healthy snacks that are made from them. So in the eyes of the WHO, including them would open the door to some processed foods that might not be in the best interest of keeping people healthy.
For example, allowing potato chips that have been deep-fried to be considered a portion of vegetables could be a bit controversial. Still, there’s a chance that real potatoes could be joining the five a day in the future.
Does a Potato Count as a Fruit?
Potatoes do not count as fruits simply because they aren’t fruits. Fruits are structures containing seeds that develop from flowering plants and remember that potatoes are tubers grown from the roots of the plant. So when you cut open potatoes, you won’t see seeds inside.
Although it is important to note that potatoes plants can produce fruits, they aren’t the typical ones. They look like green cherry tomatoes, which isn’t uncommon since both potatoes and tomatoes belong to the Solanaceous family. Still, there is a big difference between them.
Tomatoes are the actual fruits of the tomato plant, which is a different debate since they are vegetables for culinary purposes but botanically are fruits.
Why is a Potato not a Fruit?
Potatoes are not fruits for various reasons. First, let’s take a look at the definition of a fruit. According to the Britannica encyclopedia, a fruit is a flowering plant’s fleshy or dry ripened ovary, enclosing seeds (source).
But there are no seeds inside potatoes. Moreover, fruits also have a sweet or tart flavor. Once again, potatoes don’t taste that way at all. So as you see, they could never be fruits.
Still, as I mentioned, potato plants can produce fruits that aren’t potatoes, but they contain the true seeds of potatoes. However, they are not edible because of the high amount of solanine present in them.
As you may have noticed, these fruits are rare and only appear when weather conditions are optimal. Normally, the tiny, whitish to lavender flowers cannot develop during the hot summer and just wither away under the scorching sun.
Instead, a cooler than usual summer with decent rainfall seems to trigger the blooming of flowers. These conditions allow the flowers to endure long enough to be pollinated and bear the tomato-look-alike fruit (reference). You may be able to grow potatoes from the true seeds, but it’s a process that takes years, and they are quite different from the parent plant.
What is the Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are pretty different from each other. Fruits are the matured ovaries of flowering plants. Mostly, they are called that way because they have seeds and are edible with a sweet or tart taste
The purpose of fruits is to protect the plant’s seeds and often help in their distribution.
If a crop bears fruit that contains seeds but isn’t edible, it cannot be considered to be a fruit. That is the case with potatoes.
A vegetable is said to be any edible part of a plant. So by that definition, if any part of a plant can be eaten, it is considered a vegetable. This way of defining a vegetable is only for culinary purposes and not for botanical ones.
Leaves, roots, tubers, bulbs, flowers, and stalks are all considered to be vegetables. Since potatoes are tubers, they are included as veggies by that definition as well.
Potatoes are undeniably vegetables, both botanically and culinary speaking. They may also occasionally grow fruits. But since these fruits can’t be eaten, potatoes can’t be categorized as fruits. So whenever you go, if someone is wondering whether potatoes are vegetables or fruits, you can look at them in the eyes and say without hesitation, “dear, potatoes are undoubtedly vegetables.”