Beans vs. seeds vs. nuts

No, I’m not asking which would win in a fight.

I was snacking on some community food at work then Mary asks, “Oh, do you like those beans?” (Salty dry, round shaped snack)

“Beans? I thought they were seeds?”


“What’s the difference?”

Then someone has to come along and say that they looked like nuts.

Stupid question, but what’s the difference in distinction?

Beans and nuts are a seed.

Beans are specifically seeds of the legume family.

Botanically, nuts are simple dry fruits with one or sometimes two seeds, in which the ovary wall becomes hard or stony at maturity and where the seed is unattached to the ovary wall. Going into “are tomatoes vegetables or fruits?” territory, the term nut is also applied to seeds that are dry and have a high oil content.

Peanuts are called nuts, but botanically they qualify as beans, since they’re seeds from a plant of the legume family.

It is exactly one of those things, isn’t it?

I’ll just add that there are a few things colloquially called bean - usually on the basis of their superficial resemblance - that aren’t legumes at all. Coffee beans and vanilla beans being the examples that spring to mind.

I like to think of is as “strawberry/raspberry” territory. According to the botanical definition, most things we call nuts are not like most things we call berries are not.

I read that the botanical definition of nut is more specific and says nuts have rotational symmetry about one axis. Thus, acorns are an example of a true nut, while almonds and walnuts are not.

I’ve never heard of that before (although you might be right). But I think that would include walnuts, rather than exclude them.
It would exclude chestnuts.

Good call. Coffee beans are really berries. The vanilla plant is an orchid. Their fruit is in the form of a pod, whence “bean” I guess. But the seeds are little brown specks that don’t look anything like beans at all.