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In its strict botanical sense, the fleshy or dry ripened ovary (enlarged portion of the pistil) of a flowering plant, enclosing the seed or seeds. Apricots, bananas, and grapes, as well as bean pods, corn grains, tomatoes, cucumbers, and (in their shells) acorns and almonds, are all technically fruits. Popularly, the term is restricted to the ripened ovaries that are sweet and either succulent or pulpy. The principal botanical purpose of the fruit is to protect and spread the seed. There are two broad categories of fruit: fleshy and dry. Fleshy fruits include berries, such as tomatoes, oranges, and cherries, which consist entirely of succulent tissue; aggregate fruits, including blackberries and strawberries, which form from a single flower with many pistils, each of which develops into fruitlets; and multiple fruits, such as pineapples and mulberries, which develop from the mature ovaries of an entire inflorescence. Dry fruits include the legumes, cereal grains, capsules, and nuts. Fruits are important sources of dietary fiber and vitamins (especially vitamin C). They can be eaten fresh; processed into juices, jams, and jellies; or preserved by dehydration, canning, fermentation, and pickling.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fruit, visit Britannica.com.