OK, first off, if it's made of plastic, it's not a fruit. What you have there is a plastic imitation of a fruit, not a fruit at all. No fruits are made of plastic!

OK, assuming it's not plastic, how can you tell when something is a fruit? Well, first of all, if it's one of the obvious ones (you know, like an apple, or a banana), well, there you go. Done.

But let's assume the thing you're looking at is not obviously a fruit. It would be nice to say that if it looks like other fruits, it is probably a fruit. But there are too many kinds of fruit to really say that anything "looks like" other fruit. I mean, think about the watermelon, vs. the pomegranate, vs. the grape. We're talking about a big range of looks here, people.

So the point is, fruits are often colorful. I mean, who ever heard of a gray fruit? Oh, I forgot. Fruits are, of course, food. So if, say, you were to bite into the item, and it was clearly not meant to be eaten (say, a beer bottle, or an eraser), then it's not a fruit.

In fact, fruit isn't just food, but it's usually sweet. (Not always, though. A sour apple is obviously not sweet.) So, okay, we've got colorful, sweet food. Oh yeah, it has to be grown. Like, straight off the plant. So Jello isn't a fruit, even though it's colorful and sweet (of course, some might argue it isn't food :-). In fact, it can't just come anywhere off the plant, it has to be hanging off the branches, or something. My point is, it can't come from under the ground. Otherwise, you'd have to call a carrot a fruit.

(I have to digress for a sec. You know, some people say that carrots are sweet. They talk about carrot juice as being this really sweet drink. I just don't get that. I mean, I like carrots and all, but I just wouldn't call them "sweet". Weird.)

So anyway, the problem with this business about the fruit growing off a branch is that you can't look at one and tell (unless it's hanging off the branch right then and there, because you're in an orchard or something. But what are the odds of that?)

A few other possibilities: fruits are squishy. Well, maybe. An apple may or may not be squishy (I usually throw them out if they are the slightest bit squishy, but that's probably wasteful). So no go there. How about: fruits turn brown when they get old. Well, that's certainly true, but you don't want to wait until the fruit is old before you identify it (and besides, vegetables get brown too). Maybe: Fruits have fruit flies swarming around them. All I can say to that is: yecch!. How about: Fruits have fruit bats swarming around them. Well now you're just being silly.

What it really comes down to is: you just can't tell by itself. So here's the key: you gotta use context. For instance, if it's in the fruit section of the store, it's a fruit. If it's being served at dessert, it's more likely a fruit than a vegetable. If it's packed in a lunch with a sandwich and dessert, it's a fruit (at least, it would be in my family).

OK, there you go! Have no fear, you can now identify a fruit!