Interesting question, as far as most people go with it. Immediately afterwards, brains that are otherwise busy are already asking the question, why in heaven’s name do they need to know that? For example, because it’s always good to know a little bit about the stuff that keeps “Machine Man” running; It is certainly also interesting to learn how the terms fruit and vegetables are officially defined. Because this definition of fruit and vegetables decides what the fruit and vegetable trade offers. In the following article you will find out that this trade term differs greatly from what you colloquially understand by fruit and vegetables, that we all have far too little fruit and vegetables and why it is so good to grow fruit and vegetables in the garden.


What fruit is is not clearly defined. The term “fruit” summarizes an indefinite number of similar things in a class as a so-called collective.

The things are fruits, according to Wikipedia “usually water-containing fruits or parts of them that are edible raw and come from trees, shrubs and perennial shrubs”. According to Duden, “edible, mostly juicy fruits of certain trees and shrubs”, with the note that the phrase “thanks for fruit and tropical fruits” colloquially means: “I don’t want to know anything about that”.

Apparently, the Germans want to know a lot about fruit, in the last national consumption study the average consumption per day was 278 g (women) and 230 g (men).


“Vegetables” are also not clearly defined, also a collective term. According to Wikipedia, “Edible parts of plants of wild or cultivated plants, mostly leaves, fruits, tubers, stems or roots of annual or biennial herbaceous plants, eaten raw, cooked or preserved”. According to the Duden, “Plants whose different parts are eaten raw or cooked”.

The “German vegetable statistics” does not look so bad after a first look at the consumption study: women should eat 243 g per day and men 222 g per day. But only at first glance. All “vegetable-based dishes” are also included here, e.g. B. Salads with more (fatty and sugary) dressing than vegetables, gratinated vegetable pans and vegetable dishes with sauces. “Just vegetables” women manage just 129 g per day, men only 112 g.

Colloquial fruits and vegetables

Fruit is sweet and juicy and eaten raw for most people.

Vegetables can sometimes be eaten raw, usually they are boiled and eaten as an accompaniment to a main ingredient (meat), with a tendency to almost disappear under the actually important side dish (potatoes, pasta, rice).

With an average consumption of 200 to 300 g and the association “sweet”, fruit seems to be on the tasty side. Rich in fruit and baked fruit, fruit brandy and fruit day, sparkling wine and fruit wine, fruit spirit and fruit basket, fruit juice, fruit brandy, fruit cure, table fruit, winter fruit, fruit knife, fruit water (the fourth word for schnapps made from fruit), fruit cake, fruit cake, fruit vinegar, fruit sparkling wine, fruit salad, fruit platter , fruit slices, everything on the first few pages.

It’s different with vegetables, here terms that are less flattering or conducive to a healthy diet appear at the top of the list: vegetables, gratinated (with very fatty cheese), greens, vegetable side dish, Savoyard cabbage, cook through (the sad vegetable side dish), bushen ( Branch bundles), stalks (see Savoyard cabbage), all in all just green stuff.

The difference between fruits and vegetables

But not only our eating-language habits, but also all the explanations mentioned so far provide something for the distinction between fruit and vegetables:

  • Fruit: fruits <=> vegetables: leaves, fruits, tubers, stems, roots
  • Fruit: From trees, shrubs, perennials <=> Vegetables: From annual or biennial herbaceous plants
  • Fruit: can be eaten raw <=> Vegetables: can be eaten raw, cooked or canned
  • Fruit: sweet and juicy <=> Vegetables: savory or savory (colloquially important, this difference will appear later in definitions)

Scientists across disciplines and business have a lot more to say about the difference between fruit and vegetables:

  • Fruits: sugar content higher than vegetables (nutrition science)
  • Fruit: arises from the fertilized flower, vegetables from other parts of the plant (botany)
  • Gardening/trade does not classify fruit botanically, but into pome, stone, berry and shell fruit, classic tropical fruits + other exotic fruits – and vegetables used like fruit
  • There are also types of use such as stored fruit, which ripens later, and cooked fruit, which only develops flavor when heated

The difference between fruit and vegetables is far from clear. Both groups overlap in some of these statements:

Vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini are fruits, and therefore botanically fruits, but are listed as vegetables because annual plants don’t produce very sweet results.

Rhubarb is usually listed as a fruit, but as a petiole it is a vegetable.

When we enjoy strawberries, we eat pseudo-fruits, namely nut-bearing ones. The actual fruit of the strawberry consists of the tiny yellow particles (nuts) on the strawberry.

In general, the nuts: They actually belong to the fruit (nuts), but when it comes to goose with baked apples, glazed chestnuts, red cabbage and potato dumplings, most people think of red cabbage AND chestnuts as vegetables. With the nuts, the “sweet and juicy” goes overboard, because peanuts, macadamia and Co. are neither one nor the other.

Incidentally, the fact that there is more sugar in fruit than in vegetables is instructive: If you search for the two types of sugar glucose and fructose in a database with the 50 most important types of fruit and vegetables, you will find 37 types of fruit and 28 types of vegetables with more than 1 g/100 g of both. If you increase to 2 grams per 100 grams, it is still around 25 types of fruit, with vegetables only red peppers and white cabbage remain.

The statement about the higher sugar content of fruit is therefore correct. However, what is actually interesting for nutrition only comes when we look at what type of fruit and vegetables the consumption study was based on.

“Official” fruits and vegetables

Differences between fruit and vegetables can be identified in a variety of ways, but it’s not very precise. So let’s take a look at the official regulations on food, maybe they are a bit more precise:

The German food describes the German food book. A collection of guiding principles in which over 2000 foods and their properties are recorded. How the food in our shops has to be made is determined by 7 specialist committees, which deal with the following areas: 1. Meat, 2. Fish, 3. Fats/oils, delicatessen salads, spices, 4. Grain, potato and oilseed products , 5. fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, 6. drinks, 7. ice cream, honey, puddings/desserts.

Fruit and vegetables are therefore summarized under point 5. The expert committee assumes that what fruit is is generally known. In case of doubt, the EU regulations apply here (which do not differentiate precisely, see below).

According to the “Principles for fruit products” are fruit products within the meaning of the principles

  • Products made from whole fruit, parts of fruit or preserved preparations made from them, in particular:
    • Frozen fruit products (added sugar must be labeled, frozen berry mixes sometimes contain up to 10% sugar)
    • Canned fruit, “very lightly sweetened, 9 to 14%” to “highly sweetened, over 20%
    • Canned fruit also includes applesauce (“mixed, sweetened” = sweetened)
    • Cranberries, “Total sugar content (refractometer value) … between 40 and 55 percent (without tolerance)”
    • Fruit compotes (fruit – typically 50%, water, sugar, thickener)
  • Next comes fruit syrup and certain spreadable concoctions, with:
    • Fruit syrup, “at least 65% sucrose (=sugar) in 100 g solution”
    • Plum jam, “per kg … maximum 300 g sugar”
    • Apple cabbage (per kg … a maximum of 400 g sugar) + pear cabbage (per kg … a maximum of 300 g sugar)
    • Beetroot (directly from the sugar beet, refractometer value at least 78%, roughly corresponds to the sugar content)
  • Dried fruits, with their low water content, have a sugar content of around 50% all by themselves (dried mixed fruit = 46g sugar per 100g)
    • Dates can also be coated with sugar to strengthen the surface
    • Candied fruit can also be used in dried fruit mixes

The entire list consists of fruit products that are somewhere between dairy ice cream and nougat in terms of sugar content. These fruit products are actually sweets.

If you don’t eat your fruit portions pure, but enrich them with what the German Food Book describes as fruit products, you may also eat a little fruit, but also a lot of sweets. Against this background, it is no longer so surprising that, according to the consumption study, Germans consume remarkable daily portions of fruit.

Otherwise, the German Food Book does not help us much further in distinguishing between fruit and vegetables. It simply enumerates fruits and vegetables without explaining the difference. The EU regulations, in which fruit and vegetables play a role, do not differentiate either, they usually lump both together. In order to then regulate precisely who is allowed to give subsidies for what and when, how prices are set and who is allowed to export and import what and when.

Other distinguishing criteria

Colloquial language actually has the best grip on fruit and vegetables, at least when it comes to looking at what we should eat and in what quantities in order to stay healthy.

Knowledgeable people know that the German Society for Nutrition recommends eating 250 g of fruit and 400 g of vegetables. The 10 rules of the DGE for wholesome nutrition (in brief with a view to fruit and vegetables) provide information about which fruit and vegetables are meant:

1. Wholesome food and drink … plant foods with health-promoting effects that support a sustainable diet should predominate.

3. Five servings of vegetables and fruit a day, as fresh as possible, only briefly cooked or occasionally as a juice or smoothie provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber and secondary plant substances and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. Seasonal products should be preferred.

6. Sugar and salt in moderation: Eat foods made with different types of sugar only occasionally.

The missing 2nd to 10th concern bread, pasta and Co., milk and milk products, fish, meat, sausages, eggs, fat, liquid, pleasure, weight and exercise remain (+ comments on this).

Wherever fruit and vegetables are concerned, it is about fresh fruit and vegetables, raw or prepared gently and with little fat, if added sugar, then only little. This is exactly what is usually meant by fruit and vegetables when we (colloquially) talk about them.

Conversations about fruits and vegetables may have increased in recent years; please organic and without pesticides etc. consumers want their fruit and vegetables. But our actual actions (eating) don’t quite keep up. According to the consumption study, the main sources of energy for our men are almost 15% bread, then milk + cheese, meat + sausage, fats, sweets, non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic drinks, fruit, evenly decreasing from 10 to 5%.

For women it is also almost 15% bread, then milk + cheese, sweets, fruit, non-alcoholic drinks, fats, meat + sausage, baked goods.

That means : Men eat baked goods in not significant amounts. Women drink alcoholic beverages in negligible amounts. Both eat fruits and vegetables in negligible amounts.

But there is hope. Among the Duden associations with fruit, terms such as fruit tree, fruit harvest, fruit cultivation, fruit variety, stored fruit, soft fruit and fruit trees appear at the forefront. For veggies, hors-sol veggies (grown in nutrient solution by the town gardener), veggies and vegetable patches, asparagus veggies and stews, ratatouille, organic veggies, garden veggies, spring soup and enchilada, and even brunoise (for the) veggie burger. Everything is overshadowed by snail feeding and a clear indication that German gardeners are increasingly growing fruit and vegetables full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and secondary plant substances in their own gardens.

It is not a precise definition that is decisive, but our handling of the delicious and healthy fruits/plant parts. Eating more fruit and vegetables is not only good for your health, but also adds variety to your plate. Garden owners can have fun growing 3,596 German fruit varieties and 319 vegetable varieties.

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