It may come as a surprise to some but raspberries and blackberries are not berries despite their name. Rather, they are a fruit similar to peaches and apricots. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Liam’s Lowdown: Since it’s summer lets get berry technical

What we think is a berry may be anything but

We all have our nerdy moments. Whether it’s quoting all 180 episodes of Seinfeld, memorizing 196 country anthems, or being able to debate the structural differences of various meringue.

We each have a thing.

When conversation is lacking at a party, I either pretend I have to go to the bathroom, climb out the window, run home and have a cup of tea in bed while listening to ABBA or try to impress with some pointless knowledge that I hope will rouse excitement, but of course never does. Usually it’s received with crickets.

Since it’s summer and conversation is lacking in our newsroom, I thought I would try the latter.

Hold onto your knickers, we’re going to get technical.

Berries. Although delicious and pretty they are anything but simple.

Did you know that many of the fruits we call berries are not? Yes, stop the presses I know, but it’s true. A berry is a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary. Another indicator is they have seeds on the inside.

In botany, a fruit refers to the seed-bearing structure in plants. There are many different types, such as berries, achenes, legumes, drupes, nuts and schizocarp. And that’s just naming a few.

Examples of berries include: blueberries, grapes, currants, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and bananas (yes, you read that right. Bananas).

I’m afraid fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries are not berries. Strawberries are a fleshy receptacle, which carry the seeds, i.e they have seeds on the outside, a berry no-no.

You know those flecks on the strawberry’s surface? They are actually the plant’s ovaries and called achenes. An achene is another type of fruit and each achene has a seed. Other examples of achenes are buttercups, buckwheat and cannabis.

A raspberry is an aggregate fruit composed of individual drupes. A drupe is a type of fruit that has an outer fleshy part that surrounds a pit. Examples of drupes include: coffee, olives, pistachios, cherries and peaches.

A raspberry is like multiple peaches joined together. Cool, eh?

It all begs the question, why do we call them berries? According to dictionary.com, the word “berry” comes from the Old English “berie”, which originally meant “grape”. As the English language spread to the Americas with colonization, many native grape-shaped fruits that grew in bunches took on the berry suffix.

And so, the use of the berry misnomer spread. It shares a tent with other misnomers, like pencil “lead”, which is made from graphite and clay, or tin foil, which is usually always aluminum. Blackboards don’t have to be black, but can be all the colours of the rainbow. Even sticks of chalk are no longer made of chalk, but of gypsum.

Much of the world is not what it seems. Many times, words are wrong.

Regardless, the next time someone asks for a berry pie, bring them one made out of cucumber. It’s their own fault for not being specific.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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Liam Harrap is a reporter with the Revelstoke Review.

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