In A Nutshell
When you’re biting into an apple, you’re chewing on the ripened ovary of an apple tree. But don’t worry, the tree wants you to do so—sweet, edible ovaries, encasing the seeds, are the surest way these plants know to spread their spawn.
The Whole Bushel
Angiosperms (flowering plants) reproduce with seeds. The distribution method for a seed is a fruit—the animal equivalent of a mature ovary. Fruits are defined differently by different people. In a botanical sense, a fruit is usually restricted to sweet, fleshy foods like bananas, oranges, and peaches. But in a biological sense, cereal grains, nuts, and tomatoes are mature ovaries, and thus, fruits.
The fruit encases and protects the seed while it grows. When fully ripe, the ovary helps in the dispersal of the seed, usually by being delicious enough to attract visitors.
Though not all fruits are edible, many plants fit into a niche that allows for a symbiotic relationship with animals. By producing sweet, desirable fruit, the plant ensures that the ovaries will be consumed and scattered away from the mother. Animals may defecate the seeds or toss them aside—either is an effective way to spread them out. Ironically, humans can produce seedless fruits, defeating the entire purpose of the fruit to begin with.
Though a better option than candies and cakes, fruits are actually not particularly healthy. They have no obligation to be, either—they’re designed to be eaten, so flavor, not health, is nature’s priority. Many plants considered fruits in the culinary sense contain a simple sugar called fructose, which, when eaten in large amounts, can increase risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Of course, overindulging in any particular food or food group is never a good idea, so balance and moderation are always key.