We may receive a commission if you click and make a purchase through links in this post.
small lemon fruit

Is Lemon a Vegetable or Fruit? What Defines a Fruit or a Vegetable?

The answer to the question is lemon a vegetable or fruit is easy: lemon is without a doubt a fruit.

This is not a debate like it is the case with whether tomatoes are vegetables or fruits. The answer to that will also be fruits. However, unlike it’s the case with lemons, tomatoes can also be called vegetables. If you want to read something interesting, check out my article on fruits that look like tomatoes.

Lemons are only fruits. Just because we use them in so many of our cooking dishes, that doesn’t make them vegetables. Let’s see which are the exact reasons for making that statement.

Why Lemon Is a Fruit and Not a Vegetable

lemon is a fruit

In order to better understand why the answer to the question is lemon a vegetable or fruit is that it’s only a fruit and definitely not a vegetable, we should first cover the definitions for both.

What is a Fruit?

The technical definition of what is a fruit is: anything that grows on a plant and is the means by which the plant gets its seeds out into the world. That’s the definition according to Merriam-Webster.

To translate that into easier words: a fruit is the body that encloses the seeds by which plants are reproduced.

So, tomatoes contain seeds inside and that’s why they’re called fruits as well as vegetables. The same goes for cucumbers and peppers and even zucchinis. Eggplant, sweet corn, okra, also belong to this category.

One the other hand, carrots, potatoes, onions, have no seeds inside their body so they’re strictly vegetables.

Our lemons have seeds inside. We all know how annoying those seeds can get if we squeeze a lemon with our bare hands and get a few of those seeds into our salads or over our fish.

On the other hand, strawberries are an exception because their seeds are not inside the body but are embedded on the exterior. Well, strawberries are propagated from runners actually so where those seeds are placed doesn’t have an importance when we decide to grow strawberries indoors or outdoors.

Some fruits have only one big, very hard seed, like apricots or peaches or avocados.

So, when you’re trying to decide whether something that goes on a plant or on a tree is a fruit or a vegetable, just think if they have seeds inside their body or not. Or if they are reproduced from the seeds that grow inside that body.

Lemon: the Versatile Fruit

This is a citrus fruit that has an impressive variety.

We use it to make beverages of all kinds but it is often used for creating the best salad dressings. Let’s not forget about using it for making making flavorful desserts. Last but not least we use  it for all kinds of savory dishes.

There are not a lot of fruits that can boast such versatility and such popularity around the globe. No matter which culture you come from, lemons are a staple in your cooking or diet. That’s just impressive if you think about it in depth.

Other reasons for which lemons are fruits: they grow on lemon trees

small lemon fruit

The fact that lemons grow on lemon trees (Citrus limon) might not be a direct indication that this is indeed a fruit and not a vegetable.

However, the lemon tree is actually a citrus fruit tree. That will definitely give a more clear indication about their nature.

Citrus is actually a genus of flowering trees and shrubs that produce our most beloved citrus fruits: lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits, pomelos.

If you want to grow one of your own citrus trees, the easiest to start with is actually a lemon tree, the Dwarf Improved Meyer to be more exact.

It can be bought from a nursery and then repotted in a 12-inch pot at first. In time, it might require a pot that’s double that size.

The advantage is that you can grow this citrus fruit tree indoors in a pot or outdoors in the garden.

What is a Vegetable?

If we are asked to name a few vegetables, the most common are: potatoes, carrots, cabbages, beans.

We can also include tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and zucchini on the list although they’re technically and from a botanic point of view fruits.

However, lemons are not on the list. As we’ve answered the question is lemon a vegetable or fruit, we’ve discovered that they’re clearly in the fruit camp.

The answer to what is a vegetable is: in a broader sense, it’s any kind of plant life or plant product.

A vegetable can be a broad term that can describe the fresh edible portions of certain herbaceous plants. That’s the definition according to Britannica.

The plant parts can be consumed fresh or cooked into savory dishes rather than sweet dishes.

There are different classifications that we can make, based on the parts that we can consume. Just for our curiosity, let’s see which some of these categories are.

We have root vegetables like carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes.

Stem vegetables include asparagus.

Potatoes are also called tubers.

Leaf and leafstalk vegetables include lettuce, spinach, cabbage, celery, brussels sprouts.

Bulb vegetables are onions, leeks, and garlic.

Head/flower vegetables are represented by broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes.

Peas and beans are seed vegetables.

Why might lemons be confused as vegetables?

The only explanation for why someone might ask is lemon a vegetable or fruit is thanks to how sometimes products are organized in supermarkets.

It might happen that you’ll actually find these fruits sitting next to vegetables. The reason for that might be that lemons are used in savory dishes as well as for making beverages and sweet dishes.

No matter where you find them when you go out shopping, you should know that the answer to the question is lemon a vegetable or fruit, will always be that it’s a fruit.