Is a Lemon a Fruit Or a Vegetable? (what you should know)

A lemon is a fruit.

Lemons have been cultivated for thousands of years, and they were used by ancient Egyptians to prevent kidney stones from forming. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and calcium. 

They can be enjoyed raw or processed in a number of different ways. The thick skin encases sour yet flavorful flesh that contains numerous essential nutrients and phytonutrients. Though lemons are acidic-tasting when eaten straight from the tree, cooking with them mellows the sour flavor.

In botany, a fruit is a part of a flowering plant that derives from specific tissues in the flower itself or surrounding it. This distinguishes fruit from other parts of the plant which don’t enclose the ripened ovary. In culinary terms, a fruit is a sweet-tasting plant structure that contains seeds. 

In general, fruits are the parts of plants containing seeds and providing protection from the environment. The process of fruit development in flowering plants involves both fertilization via pollination as well as cellular differentiation.

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Other examples of a fruit include: a banana a strawberry an apple

NameTable Lemon
Scientific NameCitrus Limon
Height20 Feet

A lemon is a sour citrus fruit which is typically oval or oblong with yellow to green skinned coloration. Lemons have been cultivated for at least 4,000 years and they were brought from northwestern India about two thousand years ago by the Romans who spread them throughout Europe, North Africa and Southern Asia. 

They can be enjoyed fresh or they can be processed to produce lemon juice, which is used as a refreshing beverage and in numerous recipes. Lemons are acidic by nature and contain high levels of vitamin C and potassium.

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Their juice adds flavor to food and beverages while their rind is often used to create zesty oils or scented liquids for beautification or aromatherapy purposes.

A vegetable is “a plant grown for an edible part, such as the leaves, stems, roots, tubers, bulbs, flowers”, etc. that is eaten as part of a meal. In culinary terms, vegetables are flavorful but non-sweet ingredients that go well with other foods because of their bitter taste. 

Vegetables make up a large portion of the human diet worldwide, and they are generally low in fat, high in protein, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamin C. 

A wide variety of vegetables have been cultivated over thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used a number of them to create pyramids while the Romans enjoyed a large variety of vegetables at their sumptuous feasts.

Other examples of a vegetable include: corn peppers carrots potatoes

The main criterion in distinguishing between veggies and fruits is whether they have seeds inside them when ripe. The botanical definition of fruit is the mature ovary of a single plant, containing seeds.

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Meanwhile, vegetables are edible parts of plants that are not fruits. They are considered as the leaves and stems of the plant.

Lemon falls under fruit because it has its own seeds inside them when they become ripe. However, lemons also share properties with vegetables since its juice and rind can be used in cooking and preparing food.

Protein1.1 grams
Carbs9.3 grams
Sugar2.5 grams
Fiber2.8 grams
Fat 0.3 grams

Lemon History

The lemon was originally cultivated in Asia and northern India for a variety of purposes ranging from food to cleaning supplies! Lemon juice has been used since early times as an ingredient in foods such as fish, poultry and marinades. 

Lemon juice can also be used as a meat tenderizer because it contains citric acid, which is an organic compound that changes the structure of proteins in meats making them softer and more vulnerable to degradation by enzymes. As well as being used for cooking, lemons were also valued for their ability to preserve foods.  

It was not until 1493 that Columbus first brought lemon seeds along on one of his voyages after he sampled the fruit during his travels in the Caribbean – this was likely to become a vital staple back at sea; sailors often suffered from scurvy (due to a deficiency of Vitamin C) and lemon juice was found to prevent this illness.

  • Lemons contain high levels of Vitamin C.
  • Lemons are also a great source of pectin fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and promote weight loss.

The exact origin of the lemon is not known, but it most likely originated in India or Southeast Asia. It spread from these countries to Europe between the first and fifth centuries through trade with Arabia. Now lemons are grown all over the world, especially in warm climates where they grow best. 

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They are widely used as both ingredients in food and for their juice. Their peel is often used as well, since drying it creates lemon powder which has many uses. The most common use of dried lemon peel is making teas that will help treat illnesses such as digestive issues, nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety and even depression.

While the lemon is most often considered an acidic fruit, it actually has a pH between 2 and 3 which makes it more alkaline than acidic.

To this day, lemons are still used as common ingredients in foods such as salads or meats to give them flavor or tenderize them. The acidity of lemons is also commonly used for household purposes like cleaning stains (on clothes, countertops, etc). 

It can also help prevent mold growth due to its antifungal properties! Additionally, they are currently grown commercially on about 12 million acres worldwide.

  • Lemons will start to sour when they become unripe; similarly, they stop being sweet once they become ripe (and may even begin to taste bitter).
  • The lemon is not a member of the citrus family, but rather a hybrid between a true citrus and the common pomelo.           

Lemons grow on trees which can range up to about 20 feet in height. They are also known as “small citrons” because they have been around since Biblical times.

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lemons grow on trees and grow like most other plants (i.e., via photosynthesis.) This means that technically you cannot call something that grows from a plant a fruit because it didn’t come from the female side of the reproduction process. 

A fruit is only what comes out of the flowering portion of the plant, and this includes seeds and berries. So if we use botanist logic, then lemons would be considered some kind of berry or produce depending on your perspective.

The lemon tree produces drupes which are kind of like berries but with more than one seed inside of them. Botanists also consider these to be plant parts rather than actual fruits. However, normal everyday people do not think of a berry as a plant part so you could say that lemons are really fruits.

There is one exception to this rule. The fruit known as the coconut is actually a drupaceous fruit because it comes from a flowering tree. However, it does have an outer shell that holds all the seeds together and only some of them stick out from the fruit. 

If you squeeze a lemon too hard then it will pop just like any other piece of fruit which shows that they are very soft on the inside where most berries are harder on the outside instead. 

The paper’s abstract says: “After a long period of controversy, it is now clear from molecular phylogenetic analyses that [Solanaceae] is fully compatible with the biological notion of ‘fruit.'” The University of Wisconsin provides an easy-to-understand definition: 

A fruit is “the mature ovary or ovaries” which hold the seeds in plants such as tomatoes and eggplants; a vegetable is anything other than a sweet, starchy root or fruit that grows below ground, such as a carrot or radish.

Botanists also distinguish fruits by their means of dispersal from the tree: Fruits like cherries and lemons grow from flower parts called carpels, which ripen into a fleshy interior with a seed-packed center surrounded by an outer layer. Vegetables are generally formed from other types of plant structures, such as roots (carrots) and tubers (potatoes).

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The sweet potato is sometimes referred to as a tuber, but botanically it’s actually a stem. The confusion here can be resolved by determining whether the part of the plant we eat develops from the flowering portion of the plant or another type of stalk structure.

Here’s another trick: If the part of the plant we eat grows underground, it’s a vegetable; if not, it’s a fruit. All parts of the tomato plant are edible and produce fruit, so tomatoes meet both criteria. 

Onions, however, do not produce fruit, they grow from bulb structures that form small bulblets at their base. These bulblets can be planted and harvested as onions for an additional crop season after the first harvest of normal-sized bulbs.

Burpee Gardening gives some leeway on this rule: “There is no clear distinction between fruits and vegetables: Some vegetables such as eggplants or green peppers develop from fruits.” In other words, categorizing vegetables vs. fruits is a little subjective at times.

Lemons seem to fit this description of a fruit, but they have a secret weapon: Seeds! Like other fruits, lemons contain seeds inside the fleshy interior.


If you think about it from an everyday use standpoint, then yes, lemons are definitely fruits. However, if you think about it from a botanist’s stance that would be incorrect. Botanists would say that while lemons are plants, they are not fruits.

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