Do vegetables really exist?

Name a vegetable. It's easy right? Sweet potatoes and carrots are vegetables, obviously. Onions perhaps? But what about lettuce, for example?

And we have all met those who insist that a tomato is a fruit. Then there are others who argue that because it's not sweet in the same way as an apple or a pear, a tomato is more properly categorised as a vegetable.

To get some clarity, we asked the audience of BBC Earth for some help.

"You're BBC! Why are you asking us if this is a vegetable?" wondered Kimberly A. Brooks. "Is that the best you can do? Disappointed."

"Ummmm," replied Leah Kimmet. "It is a question posed to stimulate discussion because it is one of those debates that has never been conclusive."

"This is the most interesting comment thread I've ever seen," said Harry Trevva-Taylor Blake.

Precisely. Our question was particularly pertinent for Marc Trevelyaи, who was in the midst of eating a salad comprised of lettuce, carrots and apples.

As this is BBC Earth, I put the question to Wolfgang Stuppy, research leader in Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology at the UK's world-renowned Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & Wakehurst Place.

On the little question of whether vegetables really exist, he could not have been clearer: "No, not botanically," he says. "The term vegetable doesn't exist in botanical terminology." Tamara Kershner's comment echoes this edict: "Vegetable is a general term that doesn't exist in the biological world."

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