Word of the Week: Pome

pome [ pohm ] noun: an accessory fruit with fleshy receptacle tissue (hypanthium) surrounding a tough core (inferior ovary) containing the seeds

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Although bananas are the most popular fresh fruit purchased by Americans, apples (fresh, frozen, canned, and juiced) rank number one overall as America’s top fruit choice according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Both bananas and apples are considered fleshy fruits, but bananas are berries and apples are pomes.

Both have pericarps that develop from an ovary wall and protect the seeds inside. In a berry, the pericarp (except sometimes the exocarp, such as banana peel, orange rind, etc.) is edible. However, people usually discard the fruit of a pome, i.e. the core. The pome pericarp comprises the tough layer around the seeds (endocarp), the core flesh (mesocarp), and the outer core layer (exocarp) fused to the edible flesh. The part of a pome considered edible is not the fruit itself, but rather the enlargement of the flower receptacle (hypanthium). Examples of pomes are apples, crab apples, loquats, quinces, and pears.

Unlike their names and forms suggest, chokeberries and serviceberries also are pomes, not berries. Aronia arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa, are bitter or tart, especially when eaten raw, with the potential consequences reflected in their common name, chokeberries. The sweet pomes of Amelanchier arborea (downy serviceberry) taste somewhat like blueberries and ripen early summer, but there will be fierce competition to harvest them before the birds and mammals devour them all.

NOTE: Plants in the wild should not be eaten without consulting an expert or authoritative field guides for information on identification and food preparation. It is easy to confuse plants in the wild, so you should be 100% sure they are edible before consuming them. Remember:

  • Just because a plant is not identified as toxic does not mean that it is safe to eat.
  • Sometimes only certain parts of a plant are edible and other parts of the same plant are toxic.
  • Sometimes parts are only edible at a certain time in their life cycle or when they are prepared in a certain way.
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