We rarely stop to consider where fruit and vegetable names originated, but many of them make sense. Like eggplant (for their shape) or blueberries (their color). But what about fruits named after animals? Let’s take a look at 12 of them, and you can decide whether they’ve been well named or not.
If you wander around Alaska or the Yukon and come across glossy, blue-black berries on evergreen shrubs, you’ve likely found crowberries. As you might imagine, these were named for the birds whose plumage matches their fruits’ skins.
These slightly tart berries are known as kinnikinnick in Algonquian, and are part of the Arctostaphylos family. They grow on low-lying shrubs in arctic and sub-arctic regions throughout Canada, Alaska, and Europe, and are named after the big furry animals that love to nibble on them.
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Although these share the name of a friendly neighborhood crustacean, it’s unlikely that they were named after crabs. Instead, their name seems to come from the Norse word “scrabbe” (which still exists in its Swedish form, “skrabba“), meaning fruit of a wild apple tree. Huh.
Salmonberries’ moniker could have a couple of different origins. These berries thrive on the Pacific Northwest coast, where indigenous peoples regularly hunt salmon for food. The berries are often eaten alongside salmon roe as a condiment, which may be one name origin story, but the berries are also an orangey-pink, salmon-like hue.
5. Elephant Apples
These fruits are indigenous to Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh, and are named for their rough, grayish brown skins. Hey, their outsides look a lot like elephant hides, so might as well name them after those animals, right?
6. Dragon Fruits
If you’ve ever seen a dragon fruit, you’ll know it looks like something designed on the Game of Thrones film set. Their crimson hue and flame-like skin tendrils certainly make us think of mythical beings!
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These are also known as goji berries, and are members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. They *might* be known as wolfberries because their Latin name, Lycium, sounds like the Greek root word lycos, meaning “wolf” (hence “lycanthrope“, which means “werewolf”). Whether eating too many goji berries will turn you into a werewolf or not has yet to be determined.
8. Emu Apples
Emu apples (Owenia acidula) are native to the Australian coast, and create golfball-sized red fruits. Considering that emu eggs are dark green, and these trees look nothing like emu birds, we have no idea how they got their name.
Okay, so we can’t actually blame geese for these berries’ names. Apparently their German name is Kräuselbeere, which roughly translates to “crimped berries”. This in turn led to it being known as grossularia by Medieval monks who couldn’t pronounce German if their lives depended on it. Norman (French) invaders brought the name groseille to England when they conquered it, which the local peasantry transformed into “gooseberry”, eh wot.
10. Hog Plums
These fruits from the Prunus rivularis tree are indigenous to the central and southern United States. Although indigenous peoples ate them, settlers found the fruits far too bitter for human consumption. They did recognize the fruits’ nutritional value, however, and fed them to their livestock (e.g. their hogs) quite enthusiastically.
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11. Billygoat Plums
You may not have heard of billygoat plums unless you live in Australia or New Zealand. They’re also known as kakadu plums, and grow on low, sprawling Terminalia ferdinandiana trees. They may have gotten their name because of goats’ propensity for leaping up into the branches and eating fruits to their hearts’ content. But who knows?
Last but not least are kiwis. Apparently the name for the adorable flightless birds that populate areas of Australia and New Zealand came before the fruit. When you think about it, they do kind of look similar, with their round, fuzzy, gray-brown bodies…
There are undoubtedly other fruits named after animals out there, especially colloquial names in other languages. Hopefully you get a chance to try at least a couple of the ones on this list, if only for novelty’s sake.