Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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berry is a name commonly applied to various small fruits. There is a difference between everyday usage and the botanical definition. A typical version of the latter is: ‘a many-seeded inferior pulp fruit, the seeds of which are, when mature, scattered through the pulp.’ This definition includes the bilberry, cranberry, currant, gooseberry, and grape. But it also includes unexpected items: cucumber, banana, date, papaya; apple, pear (both pomes); and the citrus fruits orange and lemon, and it excludes a number of fruits commonly referred to as berries. Thus the huckleberry is not a berry but a drupe (a fruit with a stone or stones, hard casings around the seeds). The blackberry and raspberry are strictly ‘etaerios of druplets’, clusters of little fruits with stones. mulberry is a composite fruit called ‘sorosis’, as is the pineapple. The strawberry is a ‘false’ fruit, being the swollen receptacle which bears an ‘etaerio of achenes’, i.e. the pips which are the true fruits of the plant.