Ask mr brain...all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 January, 2000, 12:00am

My friend says the tomato is a fruit, I say it is a vegetable. Who is right? We generally think of plant parts which are sweet, such as oranges, pineapples and mangoes, as being fruit. Other non-sweet plants which we eat we tend to classify as vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and cucumbers.

However, while this distinction works it is not strictly accurate in a botanical sense. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (, botanists say a fruit is 'the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a plant, enclosing seed or seeds'.

So a fruit usually contains seeds and is the plant's method of protecting and distributing its seeds.

According to the botanist's definition, grapes, apples and oranges are all fruit, which most people would agree with.

However, strictly speaking, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, peppers, beans, corn and nuts are also fruit since they contain a seed or seeds.

Just to make things more complicated, since the broad definition of 'vegetable' covers all plant life and plant products, all fruits are vegetables as well. So you can both claim you are right.

Is it true that snakes smell with their tongue? Snakes do not actually smell with their tongue, although it plays an important role in their sense of smell. All snakes have a sense organ, known as Jacobson's organ, located in the roof of the mouth which is used for smell and taste. The Jacobson's organ consists of an area of nerve endings which are capable of sensing minute amounts of various chemicals.

The snake uses its forked tongue to pick up scent molecules in the air. It then thrusts its tongue into its Jacobson's organ to determine whether the chemicals are those coming from a possible dinner or an enemy. Besides detecting food and foes, it also uses this organ to trail snakes of the same species and in courtship.

According to Encylopaedia Bri tannica, the organ is so important to snakes that it has never been lost by any species, although some burrowing snakes get along without eyes and others have evolved in various ways.