Today in my Biology 172 class at UH-Mānoa, we covered the life cycle of angiosperms. This comes at the end of a week full of complicated and frustrating life cycles, traits, and structures of different plant groups. Many of the terms (gametophyte? endosperm? sporangia?) and concepts (double fertilization, waaat?) are new and rather foreign to the students. Thus, it adds a little levity to the class when we get to my favorite game on angiosperm day: fruit or vegetable?
Officially, fruits are the mature ovary of a flower, which protects dormant seeds and assists in their dispersal. The common perception of fruits as sweet and dessert-like means that lots of things people colloquially refer to as vegetables are actually fruits. For example, all of the following are fruits: nuts, beans, olives, peppers, squash, pumpkin, pickles, and the list goes on!
This mis-identification problem is rampant in grocery stores and social media, and pointing it out is a favorite insufferable know-it-all pastime of mine. As an example in class today, I showed a screenshot from my friend Martha’s Facebook page where she had posed a question about people’s opinion of bell peppers. Numerous people discussed their preference of these ‘vegetables,’ but Martha’s mother-in-law Linda brought us hope for humanity when she knew they were part of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, which also includes potatoes (vegetable), tomatoes (fruit), and eggplant (fruit). For the record, I did refrain from being an insufferable know-it-all this time, and calling everyone out on Martha’s wall.
I’m about to accidentally call them all out, though, in a much more public way. I gave my students an impromptu extra credit opportunity: observe your own example of mis-identification of a fruit as a vegetable and share it to social media with a hashtag that I can track. We discussed several options for hashtags, and voted on the popular ones. The overwhelming first choice was #MarthasMom. I had not actually told Martha or Linda that they would be featured in my class today, but fortunately they both are amused by the notoriety.
So, keep an eye out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (or on all of them at Tagboard, which I just learned about today!) for my students and their #MarthasMom posts over the holiday weekend. In fact, feel free to join the movement if you see an example yourself! I’ll screenshoot some of them to post here next week for all our enjoyment.