This topic might sound like one of those things you think people unnecessarily get bothered with until you dig deeper into some botanical and culinary classification of farm products.
In this article, we clear this age-old dilemma so that next time you get into this debate, you go in with factual ammunition from a food science perspective.
If you are looking for a quick answer, lemons and limes are generally considered to be citrus fruits that belong to the class of modified berries known as Hesperidia. Botanically, they are fruits and not vegetables because they contain seeds and are not entirely the edible part of the plants they originate from.
It just happens that in the culinary world, they are sometimes used together with some known vegetables due to their savory taste that goes well with veggies.
But even in proper culinary classification, they are still considered fruits.
Now, let’s dig a little bit deeper.
The Fruit vs Vegetable Classification
It is not uncommon to find grocery stores and supermarkets with clear demarcations of fruits and vegetable sections.
What is confusing, however, is the types of products in these sections.
Most of these stores follow some classification rules in the botanical or culinary world to inform their decisions on where to place an item on their shelves.
So, to understand this classification dilemma, let’s see what makes something a fruit or a vegetable.
What makes something a fruit?
A fruit is a botanical classification of any part of a plant that contains seeds.
Most fruits are actually the main reproductive parts of plants that enclose their seeds.
They protect the seeds and eventually give them better chances of continuity through seed dispersal.
Therefore, to be considered a fruit, something has to come out of one or more ovaries of a plant and develop into a “seed container.”
What makes something a vegetable?
For a plant part to be considered a vegetable, it must first be fully edible to humans.
Vegetables do not necessarily have to originate from the reproductive parts of a plant.
They are mostly edible stems, roots, shoots, and in some rare cases (such as tomatoes and cucumbers) fruits of plants.
Veggies are also known to have a savory taste when eaten both raw and cooked.
Finally, most vegetables we know require cooking or some sort of heat treatment prior to their consumption; although this is not a definitive indicator.
Are Lemons and Limes the Same?
Many people assume the names ‘lemons’ and ‘limes’ should be used interchangeably.
Others believe limes are unripe lemons! This isn’t true because limes are actually NOT unripe lemons.
So, what is the difference between lemons and limes?
Although not as different as day and night, lemons and limes are actually very different both in classification and several other factors such as size, taste, color, and culinary use as highlighted by Healthline.
One thing that makes them almost similar is their botanical classification under a group of modified berries with internally sectioned pulps called Hesperidia.
This group of fruits consist of other citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.
Lemon scientific name and family
The scientific name for lemon is Citrus limon.
It is a fruit from the citrus plant family taxonomically referred to as Rustaceae.
Lime scientific name and family
Lime on the other hand is scientifically known as Citrus aurantiifolia.
It is also classified under the same citrus plant family Rutaceae.
What Makes Lemons and Limes fruits?
From what we have gathered so far from the above definitions, we can now clearly give reasons for classifying lemons and limes as fruits.
1. They are the parts of a plant that contain seeds
This is one important rule that is botanically used in the initial stages of separating fruits from vegies.
Since lemons and limes clearly have seeds in their endocarps, it is a good indicator that they belong to the fruit shelf or fruit basket.
If you want to go further into the classification, you may want to put them under berries since they originate from a single ovary and their endocarps enclose several seeds just like we saw earlier with Bananas.
2. They originate from the reproductive part of a plant which is the ovary
The flowering part of a plant is what gives us the fruits we enjoy.
After the flower petals are done with their work of pollination, they eventually wilt out leaving behind an ovary that goes ahead to grow into a fruit.
If that process is not followed, then the end product is not a fruit even if it is an edible part of the plant.
Lemons and limes come from plant ovaries and are thus classified as fruits.
3. They have a somewhat sweet taste and not savory as most vegetables
The sweet-sourish taste of lemons and limes checks them out as fruits and not vegies.
Most known vegetables have a savory taste due to absence of sugars in them.
On the other hand, fruits need to have some sort of sweet taste to attract agents of dispersal (humans and animals) to eat them and disperse their seeds.
The sweet taste in fruits is a result of sugars stored in the endocarp (inner fleshy part) that also act as food for the developing seeds.
4. They do not need cooking to enhance their taste
Unlike most vegetables, limes and lemons require no heat treatment to enhance their taste.
In fact, their taste is usually distorted when cooked and consumed unaccompanied by other dishes.
That right there is a characteristic of a typical fruit.
So, are Lemons and Limes Vegan or not Vegan?
The simple answer here is yes, lemons and limes are vegan since they are originally plant products and not animal products or byproducts.
This, however, gets complicated when you consume lemons that aren’t directly coming from the farm.
Since the vegan diet strictly prohibits animal products or byproducts, some limes and lemons that are usually under preservatives such as wax are not considered vegan.
This is because the vegans believe a product called shellac in the preservative wax is an animal product making them unsuitable for vegan diet.
So, there you have it. Avoid the ones with those waxy preservatives if you are strictly vegan.