Fruit Or Vegetable? What Is A Chili Pepper?

When you think of fruit, apples, peaches, and pears come to mind. But how about chili peppers?

They should.

That’s right chili peppers are technically a fruit. That may seem to defy logic; chili peppers, after all, are really not that sweet. Sorry habanero, datil, and  scotch bonnets – you may be sweeter than other chilies, but your sweetness is nothing compared to the peaches and apples of the world.

Plus, you typically find hot peppers among other vegetables like onions and leafy greens when you hit the produce section of your local grocer. So what gives?

Oh those nightshades…

They are one of the infamous “fruits that look like a vegetable” class of produce which includes the likes of the tomato and the eggplant. What do these two and the chili pepper have in common? They are the fruits of flowering plants from the nightshade family. Vegetables, on the other hand, are parts of plants like leaves and roots. Another clue: vegetables typically don’t have seeds, while fruits, like chili peppers and tomatoes as well as pears and apples, do.

It comes to life more when you consider ornamental chilies like the Black Pearl pepper. These chilies are shaped more like a berry and the plant itself blooms beautiful purple flowers.  It has a more consistent fruit-like appearance than other types of hot peppers.

So don’t be fooled by the taste and produce aisle placement, the answer to “Are chili peppers a fruit?” is a resounding yes. Yes, it’s a fruit most often eaten like a vegetable, but a fruit nonetheless. It really does make you consider the sly sweetness that pops up with some of the peppers on the Scoville scale. That touch of fruitiness definitely hints at the hidden truth.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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