News: Brooklyn Heights Fights for Botanical Accuracy

An assortment of caryopses. Credit: Fir0002

From Monday’s New York Times, in an article about the slow season in New York State’s legislature:

Earlier this year, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, an upstate Republican, introduced legislation that would make sweet corn the state vegetable. …

But when the bill came up for debate in the Senate on Tuesday, it quickly earned the disapproval of Senator Martin Connor, a Brooklyn Democrat.

“As everyone knows, corn is a grain,” he said. “And I would propose that we make sweet corn the New York State official grain.” …

As Legislative Session Wanes, So Does Leaders’ Momentum

“The criteria is whether it comes from the reproductive part of a plant or the vegetative part of the plant,” Dr. [Marvin P.] Pritts said. “If it comes from the reproductive part of the plant, it’s a fruit. If it comes from the vegetative part of the plant, it’s a vegetable.”

Botanically speaking, corn is a caryopsis, or dry fruit — popularly known as a grain.

Dr. Pritts allowed that corn, like a tomato, is eaten like a vegetable, “so to a normal, everyday person, it’s a vegetable.”

So what makes a grain, anyway?

In botany, a caryopsis is a type of simple dry fruit — one that is monocarpelate (formed from a single carpel) and indehiscent (not opening at maturity) and resembles an achene, except that in a caryopsis the pericarp is fused with the thin seed coat.

The caryopsis is popularly called a grain and is the fruit typical of the family Poaceae (or Gramineae), such as wheat, rice, and corn.

The term grain is also used in a more general sense as synonymous with cereal (as in “cereal grains”, which include some non-Gramineae). Considering that the fruit wall and the seed are intimately fused into a single unit, and the caryopsis or grain is a dry fruit, it is not surprising that in general usage little concern is given to technically separating the terms “fruit” and “seed” in these plant structures. In many grains, the “hulls” to be separated before processing are actually flower bracts.

Caryopsis, Wikipedia

Glad we cleared that up!

via Brooklyn Heights Blog

2 thoughts on “News: Brooklyn Heights Fights for Botanical Accuracy

  1. So glad to see that the gang in Albany is taking a firm stand on the issues that really matter.

  2. Where does this legislator get his ideas in the first place? Early work on the development of corn as we know and love it today was done at the Connecticut Experiment Station. Tomatoes belong to New Jersey (NJ tomato sandwich, yumm! Rutger did great research / breeding for tomatoes, also asparagus.)

    Apples, now, New York produces wonderful apples. Everybody loves apples, we’re told to give them to teachers, use them to keep doctors away. Beautiful trees in flower, lovely in fruit, delicious fresh, cooked, in pies, preserves . . .apples makes much more sense to me.

    Ages ago I used to live on 17th Street just a few houses down from Foster Avenue. Nice to read about familiar places.

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