Vegetables account for less than one percent of the world’s plant life, but they’ve been an important staple of the human diet and the diets of domesticated animals for thousands of years. “Vegetable” was coined around the fifteenth century from the French vegeter, a term describing something lively and active. The root in Latin is vegetus, “vigorous.” They are an important source of nutrients and beneficial compounds, including: potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, selenium, beta carotene, and dietary fiber.
Vegetables are botanically classified as any consumable part of an herbaceous plant, a plant that doesn’t have a woody stem. These plant parts include, but are not limited to:
- Flowers. Broccoli and cauliflower are actually the edible flowers of the plants, borne on thick stalks.
- Leaves, including cabbage, kale, spinach, and lettuce.
- Fruits, where fruits are considered to be the ripened ovaries of a plant. These would include squash, cucumbers, avocadoes, and bell peppers.
- Seeds, such as peas and broad beans.
- Stems of plants, such as asparagus and celery.
- Roots. Carrots and turnips grow as taproots. Most vegetable roots are taproots, with the exception of some that come from fibrous roots, such as sweet potatoes.
- Tubers grow from stolons into familiar vegetables like potatoes and yams.
- Bulbs, which are layered leaves surrounding an underground stem. These include onions, garlic, and shallots.
Most vegetables are annual plants, growing for only one season. A few vegetables, such as carrots and leeks, are biennial, and produce vegetables the second year. Perennial vegetables, such as artichoke and asparagus, live for several years.
Vegetable List –