What’s Not a Nut?

'May contain nuts', but what is a nut? A quiz to annoy your friends with.

Can you recognize a nut when you see one? Radford’s definition of ‘nut’ seems to be the most widely accepted definition in botany currently: “a dry, indehiscent fruit with a hard pericarp, usually derived from a 2-or more carpelled ovary.” So a fruit that becomes hard and doesn’t split open is a true nut. A ‘nut’ hidden inside a fleshy covering, like a walnut, is not a nut. It’s a drupe, or stone fruit.

So why are nuts not nuts? Does it matter if a peanut is a legume and not a nut? It’s down to classification. When you’re comparing fruits of plants are you comparing the same things? Some taxonomists strongly believe that even if fruits look similar, if they develop in different ways they can’t be the same kind of thing. As our understanding of cell biology has grown, we can see different processes driving the development of fruits. If you’re talking about these kinds of things, then the terminology matters.

The botanical term nut has been so refined and redefined that many fruits known as nuts are not now, botanically speaking, nuts. If you start the quiz below you’ll be asked about 15 different nuts. But how many would a botanist recognize as a nut? It’s a quiz to test your botanical knowledge.

And to be absolutely honest, your patience too.