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Many common terms for seeds and fruit do not correspond to the botanical classifications. In culinary terminology, a fruit is usually any sweet-tasting plant part, especially a botanical fruit; a nut is any hard, oily, and shelled plant product; and a vegetable is any savory or less sweet plant product. However, in botany, a fruit is the ripened ovary or carpel that contains seeds, a nut is a type of fruit and not a seed, and a seed is a ripened ovule.

Examples of culinary “vegetables” and nuts that are botanically fruit include corn, cucurbits (e.g., cucumber, pumpkin, and squash), eggplant, legumes (beans, peanuts, and peas), sweet pepper, and tomato. In addition, some spices, such as allspice and chili pepper, are fruits, botanically speaking. In contrast, rhubarb is often referred to as a fruit, because it is used to make sweet desserts such as pies, though only the petiole (leaf stalk) of the rhubarb plant is edible, and edible gymnosperm seeds are often given fruit names, e.g., ginkgo nuts and pine nuts.

Botanically, a cereal grain, such as corn, rice, or wheat, is also a kind of fruit, termed a caryopsis. However, the fruit wall is very thin and is fused to the seed coat, so almost all of the edible grain is actually a seed.