2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Food and agriculture; Plants
Vegetable is a culinary term. Its definition has no scientific value and is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. All parts of herbaceous plants eaten as food by humans, whole or in part, are generally considered vegetables. Mushrooms, though belonging to the biological kingdom, fungi, are are also commonly considered vegetables. Though the exceptions are many, in general, vegetables are thought of as being savoury, and not sweet. Culinary fruits, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices are all arguably the exceptions.
Since “vegetable” is not a botanical term, there is no contradiction in referring to a plant part as a fruit while also being considered a vegetable (see diagram at right). Given this general rule of thumb, vegetables can include leaves (lettuce), stems (asparagus), roots ( carrots), flowers ( broccoli), bulbs ( garlic), seeds (peas and beans) and of course the botanical fruits like cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and capsicums.
The merits of this ongoing question, “is it a fruit, or is it a vegetable,” have even found its way before the bench of the United States Supreme Court which ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden, 1883, that a tomato is a vegetable even though botanically, a tomato is a fruit.
Commercial production of vegetables is a branch of horticulture called olericulture.
The vegetable is also used as a literary term for any plant: vegetable matter, vegetable kingdom. It comes from Latin vegetabilis (animated) and from vegetare (enliven), which is derived from vegetus (active), in reference to the process of a plant growing. This in turn derives from the Proto-Indo-European base *weg- or *wog-, which is also the source of the English wake, meaning “not sleep.” The word vegetable was first recorded in print in English in the 14th century. The meaning of “plant grown for food” was not established until the 18th century.
Vegetables in the diet
Vegetables are eaten in a variety of ways as part of main meals and as snacks. The nutrient content of different types varies considerably. With the exception of pulses, vegetables provide little protein and fat. Vegetables contain water soluble vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin C, fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A and vitamin D, and also contain carbohydrates and minerals.
Colour in vegetables
The green colour of leafy vegetables is due to the presence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is affected by pH and changes to olive green in acid conditions, and bright green in alkali conditions. Some of the acids are released in steam during cooking, particularly if cooked without a cover.
The yellow/ orange colours of fruits and vegetables are due to the presence of carotenoids, which are also affected by normal cooking processes or changes in pH.
The red/ blue colouring of some fruits and vegetables (e.g. blackberries and red cabbage) are due to anthocyanins, which are sensitive to changes in pH. When pH is neutral, the pigments are purple, when acidic, red, and when alkaline, blue. These pigments are very water soluble.
Storage of vegetables
Potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool, and dry place to prevent mold, greening and retard sprouting. Other root vegetables can be stored in a similar manner.
Leafy vegetables lose moisture and vitamin C degrades rapidly during storage and should be stored for the minimum time in a cool place such as a plastic bag.
Many root vegetables can be stored through winter in a root cellar. Care should be taken in understanding the properties and vulnerabilities of the particular roots to be stored. Many can last through to early spring and be nearly as nutritious as when fresh.