Tomatoes, japaleño peppers, serrano peppers and now avocadoes are all under scrutiny due to the recent Salmonella outbreak, making many Americans nervous about eating their vegetables.
Or make that, their fruits. Oh, drat. Which is it?
Actually, all four of these produce items are classified as fruits by scientists, regardless of what consumers, grocers and nutritionists think, said Amy Litt, director of Plant Genomics and Cullman curator at The New York Botanical Garden.
"The thing that is funny from my point of view, and it's always a mystery to me, is that everyone knows that a tomato is a fruit, but they don't know that a squash or a string bean or a cuke [cucumber] is also a fruit," said Litt, who lately is studying the genes that make tomatoes fleshy. "I'm not sure how it got into the public realm of knowledge that a tomato is a fruit. But it's like, well, all these other things are a fruit too."
In reality, the public is fairly clueless on all of this. In a straw poll of 35 people in Manhattan yesterday, about half (18) said tomatoes were a fruit. All but one person said string beans were a vegetable and most (30) said squash is a vegetable.