"Veggie" and "Veg" redirect here. For the diet that abstains from animal products and consists mostly of plants, see Veganism. For a vegetarian diet, see Vegetarianism. For other uses of "vegetable", see Vegetable (disambiguation). For other uses of "veggie", see Veggie (disambiguation). For other uses of "veg", see VEG.

Vegetables in a market in the Philippines

Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The original meaning is still commonly used and is applied to plants collectively to refer to all edible plant matter, including the flowersfruitsstemsleavesroots, and seeds. The alternate definition of the term is applied somewhat arbitrarily, often by culinary and cultural tradition. It may exclude foods derived from some plants that are fruitsflowersnuts, and cereal grains, but include savoury fruits such as tomatoes and courgettesflowers such as broccoli, and seeds such as pulses.

Originally, vegetables were collected from the wild by hunter-gatherers and entered cultivation in several parts of the world, probably during the period 10,000 BC to 7,000 BC, when a new agricultural way of life developed. At first, plants which grew locally would have been cultivated, but as time went on, trade brought exotic crops from elsewhere to add to domestic types. Nowadays, most vegetables are grown all over the world as climate permits, and crops may be cultivated in protected environments in less suitable locations. China is the largest producer of vegetables, and global trade in agricultural products allows consumers to purchase vegetables grown in faraway countries. The scale of production varies from subsistence farmers supplying the needs of their family for food, to agribusinesses with vast acreages of single-product crops. Depending on the type of vegetable concerned, harvesting the crop is followed by grading, storing, processing, and marketing.

Vegetables can be eaten either raw or cooked and play an important role in human nutrition, being mostly low in fat and carbohydrates, but high in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Many nutritionists encourage people to consume plenty of fruit and vegetables, five or more portions a day often being recommended.


Venn diagram shows the overlap in the terminology of "vegetables" in a culinary sense and "fruits" in the botanical sense.

The exact definition of "vegetable" may vary simply because of the many parts of a plant consumed as food worldwide—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. The broadest definition is the word's use adjectivally to mean "matter of plant origin". More specifically, a vegetable may be defined as "any plant, part of which is used for food",[5] a secondary meaning then being "the edible part of such a plant".[5] A more precise definition is "any plant part consumed for food that is not a fruit or seed, but including mature fruits that are eaten as part of a main meal".[6][7] Falling outside these definitions are edible fungi (such as edible mushrooms) and edible seaweed which, although not parts of plants, are often treated as vegetables.[8]

In the latter-mentioned definition of "vegetable", which is used in everyday language, the words "fruit" and "vegetable" are mutually exclusive. "Fruit" has a precise botanical meaning, being a part that developed from the ovary of a flowering plant. This is considerably different from the word's culinary meaning. While peachesplums, and oranges are "fruit" in both senses, many items commonly called "vegetables", such as eggplantsbell peppers, and tomatoes, are botanically fruits. The question of whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable found its way into the United States Supreme Court in 1893. The court ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is correctly identified as, and thus taxed as, a vegetable, for the purposes of the Tariff of 1883 on imported produce. The court did acknowledge, however, that, botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit.[9]


Before the advent of agriculture, humans were hunter-gatherers. They foraged for edible fruit, nuts, stems, leaves, corms, and tubers, scavenged for dead animals and hunted living ones for food.[10] Forest gardening in a tropical jungle clearing is thought to be the first example of agriculture; useful plant species were identified and encouraged to grow while undesirable species were removed. Plant breeding through the selection of strains with desirable traits such as large fruit and vigorous growth soon followed.[11] While the first evidence for the domestication of grasses such as wheat and barley has been found in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, it is likely that various peoples around the world started growing crops in the period 10,000 BC to 7,000 BC.[12] Subsistence agriculture continues to this day, with many rural farmers in Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere using their plots of land to produce enough food for their families, while any surplus produce is used for exchange for other goods.[13]

Throughout recorded history, the rich have been able to afford a varied diet including meat, vegetables and fruit, but for poor people, meat was a luxury and the food they ate was very dull, typically comprising mainly some staple product made from rice, rye, barley, wheat, millet or maize. The addition of vegetable matter provided some variety to the diet. The staple diet of the Aztecs in Central America was maize and they cultivated tomatoesavocadosbeanspepperspumpkinssquashespeanuts, and amaranth seeds to supplement their tortillas and porridge. In Peru, the Incas subsisted on maize in the lowlands and potatoes at higher altitudes. They also used seeds from quinoa, supplementing their diet with peppers, tomatoes, and avocados.[14]

In Ancient China, rice was the staple crop in the south and wheat in the north, the latter made into dumplingsnoodles, and pancakes. Vegetables used to accompany these included yamssoybeansbroad beansturnipsspring onions, and garlic. The diet of the ancient Egyptians was based on bread, often contaminated with sand which wore away their teeth. Meat was a luxury but fish was more plentiful. These were accompanied by a range of vegetables including marrows, broad beans, lentils, onions, leeks, garlic, radishes, and lettuces.[14]

The mainstay of the Ancient Greek diet was bread, and this was accompanied by goat's cheese, olives, figs, fish, and occasionally meat. The vegetables grown included onions, garlic, cabbages, melons, and lentils.[15] In Ancient Rome, a thick porridge was made of emmer wheat or beans, accompanied by green vegetables but little meat, and fish was not esteemed. The Romans grew broad beans, peas, onions and turnips and ate the leaves of beets rather than their roots.[16]

Vegetable Vegetable Reviewed by HeaNou on April 28, 2021 Rating: 5

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