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How can I properly say “lemons are _______ fruits” to mean that they are sour? Is that the right word? I don't mean that they taste bad, they just naturally are ________.

Also, what word can I use in saying “melons and bananas are _______ fruits” to mean that you can taste sugar in them?

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    All fruit has sugar- some more than others. – Jim Oct 14 '14 at 1:23
  • Ripe and unripe. Pretty much all ripe fruit contains sugar (normally fructose) – AdamV Nov 7 '14 at 13:23
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Sweet is a good word for some fruits – like cherries – and sour is a good word to describe fruits such as lemons and limes.

Other words that can be used to describe fruits would be tart – this would be not quite as acidic as sour, but still something that might cause your mouth to pucker a little bit. Some apples would be described as tart.

Bananas have more of a gentle, mild, or mellow flavor, I think, although sweet wouldn't be wrong. The word mellow has this definition at Collins, which seems fitting for bananas:

mellow (adj.) (esp of fruits) full-flavoured; sweet; ripe

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You've got it right. "Sour" is an accurate and appropriate description for a lemon. The opposite of that would be "sweet," although I'm not sure anyone would generally describe a banana as "sweet." That word is used for more extreme items, like chocolate cake. A banana could comfortably be described as "not sour."

That said, you're also right that there's a bit of ambiguity. "Sour" is a connotatively bad word in English, so it just depends on context. If you want to be clear, I would probably say.

The lemon is very sour. It's not bad, it's just very sour.

I know that's not a particularly elegant solution, but it seems like the best one I can think of. Although in most cases, I don't think that ambiguity would be much of an issue. People will know when you're talking about the taste, and "sour" is a pretty uncommon word to use to describe something as "bad."

  • Thank you Matthew! I got it. As you said there could be an ambiguity in usage of these words in daily life.I mean as you said probably people dont say " bananas are sweet " but I can say that " this melon is very sweet than bigger one " something like that..because their taste change sometimes ..some of them more sweet.. how about biscuit ..how can we name them..I mean is it ok if I say " would you like sweet or salty/ savoury biscuits with your tea? " – Murat Oct 13 '14 at 23:10
  • @Murat Yep, although just for the sake of technicality, you would want to say "this melon is sweeter than the bigger one." And yeah, I don't think I've heard of biscuits being referred to as "savoury" before, but that sounds like it would work. – Matthew Haugen Oct 13 '14 at 23:52
  • Thank you Matthew.As you know there are sour and sweet cherries..Have you tasted sour ones.Because it is not common I think..I think the words sweet and sour definitely work here – Murat Oct 14 '14 at 0:30
  • Yep. I mean, it's all relative. That is, "sweet" will take on different meanings based on what the alternative might be. Someone could say "this lemon is sweeter than that one," but nobody would assume that the first was as sweet as a donut. – Matthew Haugen Oct 14 '14 at 0:33
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There are four (or maybe five) kinds of taste buds:

  • Sweet (These taste buds detect sugars, but can be faked out by "artificial sweeteners", fried onions, and stevia extracts.)

  • Sour (These taste buds detect acids, such as the citric acid in lemons.)

  • Bitter (These taste buds detect potassium and many complex chemicals, especially in old plant stems and leaves. Many drugs and poisons are bitter. The bitter taste of many asthma drugs apparently makes them work better.)

  • Salty (These taste buds detect salts. Salt also makes sweet food seem even sweeter.)

  • Some people believe that there are also "savory" taste buds. Savoriness is associated with Asian spices, and with protein.

Most edible fruits are both sweet and sour. Some edible fruits are also bitter and/or salty. In the original post's examples:

  • Lemons are sweet, and very sour.

  • Melons are sweet, slightly sour, and sometimes bitter.

  • Bananas are sweet, and also bitter (because they are high in potassium).

As discussed in Section 4 of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Ketchup Conundrum", Heinz ketchup "[pushes] all five of these primal buttons. The taste of Heinz’s ketchup [begins] at the tip of the tongue, where our receptors for sweet and salty first appear, [moves] along the sides, where sour notes seem the strongest, then hit the back of the tongue, for umami and bitter, in one long crescendo."

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If you say citrus fruits, it is understood that you are talking about the fruits that have sour taste. The obvious reason (and also from where the term has come) is the presence of citric acid in them.

On the other hand, I agree that we can call bananas etc. sweet fruits

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    True, but citrus refers to a particular genus. Not all sour fruits are citrus fruits, for example, cranberry or tamarind, and while acidity is common to all the citrus fruits, it is not necessarily the predominant flavor— mandarins are sweet and grapefruit are bitter. – choster Oct 15 '14 at 18:33
  • You missed it. I said generally all citrus fruit are sour and not all sour fruits citrus! :) – Maulik V Oct 16 '14 at 4:34

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