1st January 2018: Fruit and running

Over the last few days I’ve dramatically increased my level of research into the definition of fruit (I must have read at least 7 articles…).

It turns out that the common everyday or culinary meaning of the word fruit is not clearly aligned to a scientific botanical definition. Wikipedia says it most succinctly:

“In botany, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants (also known as angiosperms) formed from the ovary after flowering.”

I didn’t understand the definition at first, without reading around and looking at a few examples.

The key point for my challenge is this bit: “seed-bearing structure”. That’s why tomatoes and cucumbers and courgettes are also fruit!

Fruit anatomy, courtesy of Wikipedia

But is the seed part of the fruit, or something separate that the fruit encloses? For my challenge, I’m going with the former, as it means I’ll be able to count seeds in my 777 total. I’d argue that if a thing is typically contained entirely within something, then it’s reasonable to say the thing is part of the something. I know not every fruit has the seeds within the fleshy bit of the fruit, such as the strawberry, of which Wikipedia says:

Technically, it is an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each apparent “seed” (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it.

But I’m happy that for my challenge an aggregate accessory fruit counts as a fruit.

Call me out if you wish, botanists.

Having defined fruit thusly, the next thing is to define what counts as a different type of fruit. If I eat a Bramley apple and a Braeburn apple, is that two different types of fruit? Whereas the definition of fruit above erred on the side of my convenience, I’m going to choose a non-convenient answer to this question:


Bramley and Braeburn are cultivars of the same fruit. A cultivar is a man-made variety, selected through cultivation.

So what does it mean for two fruit to be the same type as each other? I’m going to say that they are the same if they are the same species. That’s a taxonomic rank above variety.

I had a date (Phoenix dactylifera) with my breakfast. One of these:

This is a pack of medjool dates. There are dozens of others varieties, which I won’t be counting towards my total if I happen to eat any of them.

I also had some bramble jelly. That’s made with blackberries.

The blackberry is a more interesting example of a fruit as there are many species of blackberry, not just many varieties. Again quoting Wikipedia:

“The taxonomy of the blackberries has historically been confused because of hybridization and apomixis, so that species have often been grouped together and called species aggregates.”

A number of these are called out in the wiki info box:

So which of these did I just eat? Well, they were picked from wild brambles in the south of the UK, and this Woodland Trust page identifies UK brambles as Rubus fruticosus agg. Wikipedia says:

“…the entire subgenus Rubus has been called the Rubus fruticosus aggregate, although the species R. fruticosus is considered a synonym of R. plicatus”

So I’ll put this down as Rubus plicatus. On toast.

How much of a fruit must I eat for it to count? Any amount of any part. If I tried to set a rule that I must eat a piece of fruit whole, I’d need to eat walnut shells, apple cores, banana skins, and all manner of inedible or even poisonous plant parts.

Since any amount counts, I technically get to chalk up three fruits from a glass of this bad boy:

Orange (Citrus sinensis), mango (Mangifera indica), and passion fruit (Passiflora edulis). I’m guessing the species name of the last two as there are dozens of types of mango and two or three of passion fruit. I’ve just gone with what looks like the most common species.

Now, this bottle of juice is a bit cheaty if you ask me. Since mangos and passion fruits are so readily available in their whole form, I’m going to choose not to claim these towards my total. Nor am I going to claim the following as tomato:

And I’m not going to claim this pot of rhubarb yoghurt either:

But that’s because rhubarb isn’t a fruit! It’s the stem of the Rheum rhabarbarum plant. However, look what I found on the back!

Out of nowhere, this thing has elderberry juice in it! I’ve got no idea whether Tesco sourced their elderberry juice from the UK but Woodland Trust identifies the UK species as Sambucus nigra. Incidentally, yes, this Latin genus is where the liqueur Sambuca gets it name.

Dilemma then. Do I claim to have eaten elderberries because there’s a tiny amount in this pot of yoghurt? It doesn’t even have a percentage. I’m a little undecided, because elderberries don’t strike me as the kind of thing you can get easily (maybe I’m wrong). If this is my only chance of eating an elderberry, I’ll take it. But I’ll withhold judgement until I’ve tried getting hold of some actual elderberries. I’m not going to count the concentrated lemon juice in here either.

To make up for all this gentlemanly reserved behaviour, I am going to claim the peas (Pisum sativum) and green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) that I had for lunch. They are certainly on the vegetable end of the scale in culinary terms, but there’s no doubt about it botanically: they are both seeds.

I’ve almost written enough about fruit today, and smashed through my target (2.1 per day), even though I haven’t exactly had my 5-a-day in traditional nutrition terms. The only thing I have left to report is my disappointment at finding out that maple syrup isn’t a fruit (it’s sap).

I’ve also had a massive day for my other targets. On the very first day of the year, I’ve done my first 10K race! Actually, it was a quarter marathon (10.54km). It’s been more than 5 years since I ran the London marathon, and my feet, knees, hips, and chest are carrying the aches to prove it. My time was 1h17m. I swear I didn’t plan to finish in this time, but it works out as 77 minutes! Maybe there is something to numerology after all!

I started the race alongside my wife, who was running her 26th 10K in the last year (she’s obsessed. Hi hunny!) We separated fairly quickly and I managed to run until about the 2 mile mark, where a hill began and I broke down into a walk. It was run-walk-run-walk from that point onwards, managing various aches and pains, including the recurrence of a left-knee injury that I obtained in a half-marathon leading up to the marathon, back in 2011. Since then I’ve not been able to run more than two or three miles continuously without it hurting.

Since the race was longer than 10K, I’ll scale my time down to 1h13m and use that as a PB to beat next time. That’s not actually my lifetime personal best, but I’m five years older than when I last ran so I’ll count this as a different epoch.

I enjoyed the first third of the race, hated the rest, and enjoyed the achievement of finishing. The highlight was our four- and one-year olds on the course sidelines cheering us on and dishing out high fives. The lowlights were the persistent pains and the fact that it rained nearly the whole time. At least it was unseasonably warm. Running in rain is fine. Better than fine perhaps — it’s nicely refreshing for habitual overheaters like myself. Running in mud is less fine. Running in snow and ice is a whole other thing.

I could have stayed at home and not bothered, but I didn’t. One out of seven races done.

With the race being the main event of the day, I didn’t do a whole lot of other exercise. I did six press-ups first thing in the morning, another six 40 minutes later, and then another three just before putting the kids to bed. I could only make it to three because I collapsed laughing at our eldest counting them: “One layer! Two layers! Three layers!” Why the word layer? Ask your nearest four year old — you might even get an answer that makes sense!

Fifteen press-ups isn’t good enough though. I need to do just over 21 every day if I’m going to hit the target of 7,777. In fact, now that it’s late in the evening and I’ve had a rest and everyone else has gone to bed, I’m going to do some more right now. Excuse me for a minute won’t you?

OK, that was 7 more. A total of 22. That’s better! I’ve got to get a little bit ahead each day on my targets so that I can build up some contingency. There’s bound to be a day at some point this year where I fall ill or otherwise can’t fit the activity in.

My star jump total sits at a very sad zero. Press-ups are definitely an arm thing, and my arms were blissfully unaffected by the race. As opposed to my legs, which are a wreck. I definitely have no capacity for any star jumps today, and the way I’m currently feeling possibly not tomorrow either. Damn. My daily target was going to be 213, but if I don’t do any today or tomorrow I’ll need to up that to 214.

Steps on the other hand have been a great success. I need to hit a daily target of 21,309 and I’m happy to say I’ve comfortably exceeded that — the race obviously helped a lot. My total for today is 23,407. That puts me far enough ahead that I now only need to hit 21,303 each day for the rest of the year! Maybe I’ll spend the saved time doing my extra star jump.

It was hard to hit this step total. The race only earned me about 12,000 — barely half. The rest was acquired walking to and from the race, and on another walk in the evening. That’s not hugely sustainable in terms of time spent. It’s the first day back at work tomorrow and I’m not sure how I’m going to fit in so much walking. I checked the map to see if I could get off my train one stop earlier, and I can, but it’s not a pleasant walk, and I’m pushed for time in the morning as it is. I’m going to try getting outside at lunchtime, or maybe suggesting some walking meetings. I’m also prepared for the possiblity that my feet won’t have fully recovered and I won’t have a chance of walking properly for several days to come.

I’ve been using Apple Health on an iPhone 8 Plus to track steps. The accuracy isn’t amazing (it recorded 40 steps while driving in the car), but it’s good enough. It’s also with me almost the entire day in my pocket, so I get to count steps walking around the house. It even seems to count steps for quasi-step activities like moving between different areas of the kitchen work surface. I’m happy with that, as it captures activity — and that’s the point. I don’t even mind if it doesn’t count exact steps, as long as any error is systematic, and as long as the total is overall representative of activity.

Apple Health also gives me a floors climbed count, which today stands at 23, mostly due to the undulating race course. I did consider using this as one of my challenge targets (the only one that would have made sense is the 7,777 target, at 21 a day) but went with press-ups instead on the basis that I already had enough leg-based targets.

Finally, there’s the word target. This post is now over 2000 words, and I wrote it all today! I’ve been having thoughts over the last few days about what I would write, but I made sure I didn’t actually start any writing until today to keep it fair. This is going to be a tough one to complete in a way that is interesting to a reader. I would guess that readers might find the various fruit digressions mildly interesting but less so the rundown of my other stuff. Oh well, this is for me, not them! There’s also nothing to say that I have to write about my challenge! Maybe I’ll just bash out the Great American Short Story in 2000 words and come back the next day to complain about Medium not supporting offline editing in the iOS app.

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