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Vegetables Derived From Stems, Petioles, Or Foliage, Vegetables Derived From Fruits Or Flowers, Vegetables Derived From Below-ground TissuesEat your vegetables

The word vegetable is not scientifically defined by botanists. Rather, the plants and plant parts that are considered to be vegetables have been specified by a broad consensus among farmers, grocers, and consumers.

In general, vegetables are plant tissues that are eaten as a substantial part of the main course of a meal. In contrast, fruits have a culinary definition as relatively sweet, often uncooked plant parts that are eaten as desserts or snacks.

Many vegetables are above-ground, leafy tissues or stems of herbaceous plants, for example: cabbage, lettuce, and celery. However, the common understanding of vegetables also includes certain plant parts that are botanical fruits but are normally cooked before being eaten, such as the tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, and squash. Certain below-ground plant parts are also considered to be vegetables; for example: onions, garlic, and carrots, even though other below-ground tissues such as potatoes and yams are not.

Globally, the production of the most important types of vegetables are as follows: tomatoes, 45 million tons; various types of cabbage, 30 million tons; onions and garlic, 20 million tons; cucumber and squashes, 15 million tons; bell and chili peppers, six million tons; peas and beans, eight million tons; and carrots, eight million tons.

Most vegetables are highly nutritious foods, very rich in carbohydrate energy as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and to a lesser degree, protein. A balanced diversity of vegetables is an important component of any healthy diet, and these plant products should be eaten regularly.



Hvass, E. Plants That Serve and Feed Us. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1975.

Klein, R.M. The Green World. An Introduction to Plants and People. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.

Bill Freedman


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—A distinct variety of a plant that has been bred for particular agricultural or culinary attributes. Cultivars are not sufficiently distinct in the genetic sense to be considered to be subspecies.

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