Pickles are a beloved food throughout America, and are prepared in many ways. Interestingly, America was actually named after a pickle merchant, Amerigo Vespucci. Each year, Americans eat around nine pounds of pickles. We all know and love pickles, but what exactly are they?
Culinarily speaking, pickles are indeed vegetables. But they also fall under the culinary classification of berries and fruits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled pickles to be a “fruit of the vine.”
Fruits vs Vegetables
To understand why the classification of pickles is so complex, first you must understand what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. In the plant science field, or botany, a fruit is classified as the seed-bearing part of a flowering plant. So, scientifically, fruits can be many more things than the edible ones you are familiar with.
Botanically speaking, many things you consider vegetables are actually fruits. Bean pods grow on a flowering plant and are seeds, so they are technically fruit. The same goes for corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers (what pickles are derived from).
Again, speaking botanically, a fruit is also a vegetable. The same way that mathematically, all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Just replace the word square with fruit and rectangle with vegetable.
In terms of botany, a vegetable is classified as any part of a plant that is edible for human consumption. This even includes the fruits of plants, as well as the stems, roots, and leaves. Nuts, flowers, and grains are technically vegetables, but fall under their own modern classifications.
To further complicate things, yes, pickles could also be classified as berries. Berries are botanically classified as a fleshy fruit that has no pit. A berry is produced from one single flower on a flowering plant, which only has one ovary. Going off of this definition, raspberries and strawberries are technically not berries. This is because they are grown on flowers that have multiple ovaries.
In addition, this makes bananas, cucumbers, and grapes berries. This scientific definition is rarely used outside the field of botany, though.
As you probably know, pickles come from cucumbers that have been brined. Based on the botanical definition of a fruit, cucumbers are fruit. But in terms of culinary uses, they are widely considered a vegetable. Despite their definition as a fruit, they are eaten as vegetables.
Because all fruits are vegetables, calling a cucumber or pickle either a fruit or vegetable would be correct.
The Bottom Line
The answer to the question, “are pickles vegetables?” depends on how scientifically you choose to define it. The matter was so pressing that it was settled in the Supreme Court that pickles are a fruit of the vine. In culinary terms, pickles are indeed fruits, but they are also vegetables. Calling a pickle a vegetable is not technically incorrect.