Is Capsicum a Fruit or a Vegetable?

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Peppers are the fruit of the capsicum.
Peppers are the fruit of the capsicum. (Image: Michael Hitoshi/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The capsicum plant produces edible peppers, which are fruit to a botanist and vegetables to a cook. All pepper plants are capsicums. Different species grow pods ranging from large and sweet to small and hot.

Botany

Capsicum plants produce pods which contain their seeds. Any seed-containing part of a plant is its fruit. The pepper pod is strictly a berry, because it contains more than one seed. Botanists define plants with edible roots, stems or leaves as vegetables.

Cookery

Cooks use capsicum pods, or peppers, as a vegetable and add them to savory dishes. Dried and powdered peppers make the spices chili and paprika. Other fruits cooked as vegetables include tomatoes, beans and okra.

Legal Definitions

Sometimes the law decides. In 1893 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the tomato was as vegetable because it was served with dinner. At that time, importers paid duty on vegetables, but not fruit. Since then, a vegetable is any plant consumed as part of a savory dish, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture horticulturist, Victor Boswell, writing for "National Geographic" magazine in 1949 -- reprinted by Texas A&M University Extension in 2000.

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