November 24, 2012 2:54 am

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Imagine a world without fruit—without apples and oranges and blueberries. There wouldn’t be any strawberry shortcake, cherry pie, or raspberry sherbet either. And we wouldn’t be very healthy. We get a lot of important vitamins from eating fruit.
We think of fruit primarily as something to eat. But fruit has a purpose quite apart from our needs. Fruit is part of a flowering plant. It’s the part that carries the seeds. The purpose of fruit is to protect a plant’s seeds and help them get spread about. Wind and water spread seeds. So do animals when they eat fruit and drop the seeds. The seeds grow into new plants.
There are two main types of fruit: fleshy and dry. Fleshy fruits are soft and juicy, the way we usually think of fruits. Peaches, plums, and apples are all fleshy fruits.
Dry fruits are thin and hard. Grains like wheat and rice, or nuts like chestnuts or almonds, are dry fruits.
But wait: You’ve eaten oranges and grapes without seeds. How can they be fruits? It’s because people have changed the way they grow fruit. They can now grow seedless fruit.
Seedless fruit comes from special plants called hybrids. A hybrid is made by combining two varieties of a fruit to form a new variety. This hybrid grows and produces seeds. But the plants grown from these seeds are seedless. These plants cannot reproduce themselves. They can make fruit, but the fruit has no seeds.
A tomato is a vegetable, right? No, it’s actually a fruit. Other food we think of as vegetables—such as squash, peppers, and eggplant—also are fruit. They’re fruit because they carry seeds and develop from flowers.
Here’s another surprise. Scientists classify the tomato as a berry. In addition, they don’t consider some fruits we call berries to be true berries. The raspberry is what’s called an aggregate fruit. That means it’s made of lots of tiny fruits that grow in a tight bundle. The red part of a strawberry holds the actual fruit—the tiny dark seeds on the outside of the strawberry. The red part is just the tip of the strawberry stem that’s enlarged. Funny, isn’t it?
Fruits are a source of nourishing substances that keep us alive and healthy. For example, they contain many vitamins, especially vitamins A and C, and many minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and zinc. They also provide fiber for a healthy digestive system and carbohydrates that the body needs to make energy. They don’t have a lot of calories to make us fat.
People use fruits for many things. We make juices from them. We cook bread and pie with them. We make jams and jellies and sweets. We freeze them to eat later. We even make alcohol from fruit. Beer comes from grains, wine comes from grapes, and some brandies are made from plums, apricots, or other fruits.
But most of the time, we don’t do anything special with fruits. We eat them fresh, just as they are!
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