Saturday, March 14, 2009

I was trying to explain to A. the TV producer about the proper hierarchy of fruit flavors - strawberry and peach at the top, blueberry near the bottom before plum and gojiberry.

"But you're mixing things up," A. said. "Berries aren't fruit, they're berries!"

I was flabbergasted. I was having enough trouble convincing her of the proper fruit-flavor rankings and all of a sudden I'm hit with a bizarre Swedish idiosyncrasy: Swedes don't consider berries fruit.

But, I asked, if they aren't fruit, what are they?

All the Swedes at the table jumped on me at once: "Berries, of course!"

And they would not be convinced by me that for us English speakers, berries are a category within the whole fruit family, somewhat like melons.

"I don't believe you," A. said. "And what about root fruits, huh?"

The Swedish words for the day are frukt, bär, rotfrukt. They mean fruit, berries, root vegetables.


Anonymous said...

rutfrukt eh? I suspect your fingers slipped a bit, as that would be a "square" or "diamond" fruit (as in the shape of each element in a square grid).

Anonymous said...

Dear Francis,

As an American living in Stockholm, I am also appalled at the Scandinavian belief that berries aren't fruit.

In fact, if you looked at the definition of a fruit, you would find that it is simply the means by which a plant disseminates seeds. Berries disseminate seeds for the plant, so of course it's fruit.

And they are very tasty. Mmm.

Yours truly,

Mirte said...

Tack! This clarifies a lot. To a Dutch person living in Stockholm who does consider berries to be fruit and was wondering why they would insist on calling 'rotfrukt' 'frukt'...

@L: that definition would make cucumber and tomatoes fruit as well... Or do Americans really consider those vegetables to be fruit? I guess it's not that strange that different definitions exist in different languages...

Anonymous said...


Good question! Tomatoes and cucumbers are indeed fruit, but no one in the U.S. would really call them that since they aren't sweet and aren't eaten like "traditional" fruit. But the technical definition still stands.

In fact, cucumbers are classified as melons. And they are very nice in ice water on a hot day. Mmm.


Robin Shadowes said...

Ve sveedes are a stubörn lått. Ve vill never change. :)

Anonymous said...

Confucious probably didn't say: "An expert is someone who knows a tomato is a fruit; a wise man is someone who knows not to put it in a fruit salad."

I've wasted entirely too much time arguing with persons who think that the biological definition of "fruit" takes precedence over all others to start here, but I would point out that this does after all exclude "false fruits" like strawberries.

And good luck finding a satisfactory botanical definition of "vegetable" to go with it. (Hint: there isn't one.)

Des von Bladet

Margaret said...

I was sure you were kidding so I've been doing a poll here in the shop - so far 50% of my Swedes are calling berries fruit (including my husband, thank god) while an appalling 50% are saying "Not fruit - BERRIES". Fascinating stuff!

Anonymous said...

You mean tubers, Francis?


Anonymous said...

How could Carl Linné have missed that??


Wieke said...

My roommate once came with a very satisfying solution for this problem. He said that fruit is what you want to put in your yoghurt and vegetables are what you wouldn't want in your yoghurt for dessert. And tzatziki doesn't count. Hence, berries are fruit.

PissedOffPencil said...

The swedish "frukt" is any fruit bigger than the size of a grape. Any fruit smaller than that is a "bär". Easy-peasy.