Common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) was used by Native Americans. There are over 163 uses for this important plant and its fruit. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.
Fruits are the mature or ripened reproductive structures (ovary of a flower) formed by plants that enclose seeds and help with their dispersal. Fruits generally have fleshy outer material. To learn more about how fruits and seeds are formed, see Celebrating Wildflower's “What is pollination?” web page.
Fruits can be classified as:
- Simple Fruits: fruit derived from one ovary.
- Stone fruits or drupes; e.g., peaches, plums
- Pome; e.g., apple
- Berry; e.g., grape, huckleberry
- Citrus fruits (hesperidiums): Leathery rinds dotted with oil and fleshy hairs projecting inward; e.g., oranges, lemons, limes
- Pepo; e.g., melons, squash
- Aggregate Fruits: fruits derived from multiple ovaries of a single flower.
- Multiple Fruits: Fruits from many flowers packed together, such as pineapple, blackberry, and raspberry.
- Did you know that a tomato is a fruit? A tomato is often considered a vegetable. However, it is a fruit because it develops from a flower and contains seeds.
- Tomatoes were discovered in the New World (the Americas). Their inclusion in old world cuisines came only after their discovery and introduction to the old world.
- People from the old world thought tomatoes were poisonous because many members of their family (Solanaceae) have bitter fruit toxins or hallucinogenic compounds.
- The German common name, “wolf peach” reflected the belief that fruits could be used to evoke werewolves. Indeed, Linnaeus formalized this belief by naming the species Lycopersicon esculentum, Latin for Juicy wolf peach.
There are many fruits from around the world. Below are short listings of fruits from differing climates.
Fruits from Cold Climates
- American Cranberry
- Banana Passion fruit
- Bergamot Orange
- Black current
- Dog rose
- Melon pear
- Mountain ash
- Rose Hips
Fruits from Warm Climates
Native North American Fruit
Banana yucca (Yucca baccata), an extremely important native American plant. Photo by Vic Bradfield.
In the desert southwest, Yucca baccata is commonly called the banana yucca, as the large, fleshy fruits pods that are somewhat banana-shaped, were an important source of food for many native people. The fruits were eaten raw or cooked, or made into breads or beverages. Flowers were eaten before the first rain to prevent bitterness. The fruit pulp was cooked to a paste and dried for winter use.
This plant, in the Agave family, typically has pointed, stiff, narrow leaves. Yuccas were one of the most important plants for Native Americans in the southwest. They provided food, fiber, and soap, and were also used in ceremonies.
For more information, see Celebrating Wildflowers' Plant of the Week: Banana Yucca.
Did You Know?
- A pumpkin is a fruit. Squash and melons were new world discoveries
- Pumpkins are not just for carving at Halloween. Many wonderful recipes exist for pumpkins including soup and pie.