Food, one of the necessities of life, figures often in traditional expressions. Fruits and vegetables, specifically, account for some of the most familiar idioms, including the following.
1. To compare “apples and oranges” is to uselessly compare unlike things.
2. The “apple of (one’s) eye” is a favorite or well-like person.
3. To say that “the apple never falls far from the tree” is to suggest that a person’s personality traits are close to those of the person’s parents.
4. “As American as apple pie” means that something is quintessentially representative of American culture or values.
5. “(As) sure as God made little green apples” suggests certainty.
6–12. To be a “bad apple” or a “rotten apple” is to be a bad person. Meanwhile, to say that “one bad (or rotten) apple spoils the whole bunch (or barrel)” implies that one flawed element or person can undermine an effort or a group, and to be “rotten to the core” is to be thoroughly bad or worthless.
13–14. “How do you like them apples?” (or “How about them apples?”) is a neutral or taunting comment, depending on the context, that refers to an undesirable state or situation.
15–16. To “polish (one’s) apple” is to flatter someone; a flatterer is an “apple polisher.”
17. To “upset the apple cart” is to ruin plans.
18. A “banana republic” is a weak or corrupt country.
19–20. A “second banana” is a subordinate, and the “top banana” is the leader.
21–22. To “go bananas” is to become excited or crazed, and “to drive (someone) bananas” is to annoy or irritate someone.
23. Something in “cherry condition” is excellently maintained or restored.
24. To “cherry-pick” is to select carefully.
25. “Life is a bowl of cherries” means that life is easy.
26. To “not give a fig” is to be unconcerned.
27. A “lemon” is a flawed or worthless item; the idiom often refers to a vehicle.
28. “Melon” is sometimes used as slang for head or, vulgarly, for large breasts.
29. To say that someone or something is a “peach” means that they are beautiful, excellent, or sweet.
30. When everything is “peaches and cream,” life is going well.
31. A “plum” assignment or job is a highly coveted one.
32. One is said to have “sour grapes” when one belittles something one covets but cannot obtain.
33–36. To be “full of beans” is to talk nonsense, and to “not know beans” is to be ignorant or uninformed. To be “not worth a hill of beans” is to be worthless, and to “spill the beans” is to tell a secret.
37–38. To “dangle a carrot” before someone is to encourage them with an incentive, and the carrot in “carrot and stick” is an incentive or reward. (The stick is the punishment.)
39. A “carrot top” is a red-haired person.
40. Someone “as cool as a cucumber” is very self-possessed under pressure.
41. To “pass an olive branch” is to make peaceful or reconciliatory overtures.
42. A “pea-brained” person is stupid.
43. Fog or something else very dense can be described as being “as thick as pea soup.”
44. To be “like two peas in a pod” is to be very close with or similar to someone.
45. To be “in a pickle” is to experience complication.
46. A “couch potato” is someone who spends an excessive amount of time seated watching television or playing video games.
47–48. A “hot potato” is a controversial or difficult issue, but to “drop (someone or something) like a hot potato” is to abandon the person or thing.
49. Something that is “small potatoes” is insignificant.
50. “Salad days” refers to the youthful period of one’s life.
Fruits and vegetables figure occasionally in figurative references to color, such as “beet red” (the color of embarrassment), or descriptions of specific hues, like “cherry red,” as well as other comparisons, including “pear shaped.” The words fruit and vegetable themselves appear occasionally in idiomatic phrases, including the following:
To “bear fruit” is to produce results.
“Forbidden fruit” is something attractive but not allowed.
The “fruits of one’s labors” are the results of the person’s efforts.
To “become a vegetable” is to be rendered physically disabled or to virtually cease physical activity.