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Vegetables aren't real
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Vegetables aren't real

Look, we’ve been lying to you. This may be hard to be-leaf but….

Vegetables aren’t real.

(I beg your garden?) 

A ‘vegetable’ is a culinary term - it has no value in the world of botany. Loosely, the word ‘vegetable’ refers to all the parts of plants which we like to consume. It’s a real word of course - just not in the scientific study of plants. 

The vegetables growing in our gardens today have been cultivated throughout the world over thousands of years. Humans, and nature, have bred plants to produce more of the edible parts we like. What are we eating? The ORGANS of our favorite crops: stems, leaves, flowers, roots. Versatile and often quite tasty, they’re a nutritional slam dunk. They’re low in calories, fat content, and cholesterol but overflowing with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Health experts agree, vegetables play an integral part in fueling the human body.

Fruits, on the other hand, ARE biologically recognized. They're the reproductive parts of a flowering plant; operating as an ovary does. Cucumbers, eggplants and peppers are technically fruit in botanist terms because they bear the seeds.



Black Gavel
What about tomatoes? You’ve probably heard it both ways. But legally speaking, a tomato is a vegetable. In 1893, the case of Nix vs. Hedden was argued before the Supreme Court.  The Tariff Act of 1883 imposed a 10% tax on imported vegetables, but fruits remained tax free. It was a case of scientific definitions versus social associations. The court determined that the tomato should be considered a vegetable because of how it was most commonly used. A valuable result for the US Treasury. 

The origins of the term vegetable go all the way back to the Medieval Latin word vegetablis meaning “growing, flourishing, or fit to live.” It wasn’t until 1767 that it was clerically defined as “a plant cultivated for food, edible herb, or root.” In fact, there was some discussion of using the Old English term wyrt instead. Wyrt (or wort) means “branch, root, herb or spice,” but there’s something less appetizing about the word, don’t you think? Even St. John’s Wortfor all of its medicinal assets, goes down a bit easier with a little extra sugar. (Mary Poppins had it right☂️)

Animals and humans alike have feasted on garden goodies for centuries; the flavor of a homegrown superfood is nearly impossible to beat. 

And now you’ve got all of these fun facts to share at the dinner table the next time you're enjoying freshly picked veggies..or fruit..or wort.



 Call them whatever you like - just don’t skip ‘em!!! 



Sources: Etymology of Vegetable - Etymonline     Nix vs Hedden - The Grunge

1 comment on Vegetables aren't real

  • Robert
    Robert April 08, 2024

    No, they aren’t real!

    Through learning more about the specifics of the botanical world my eyes have been opened and shattered my preconseptions. Let me give you some context. I started cooking professionally at the age of fourteen for a local chef. I thought I had it all figured out about my fruits and vegetables, tomatoes are fruits but don’t belong in a fruit salad was always a line used in our joking around. As I have been learning more and understanding how we have classified our ‘eatable’ plants, I started to make weird connections. Dandelion leaves, well what do you classify them as? Stinging nettle is it just a leaf? What would you classify a truffle as? I Never fully looked into what they are outside of delicious. Dandelions and stinging nettle, most of us look at as just a weed, but they are flowers so the leaves then wouldn’t be a vegetable as we look at lettuces, cabbage, or arugula. In the world of botanicals weeds aren’t just classified as that, they have proper designations and categories. The world of truffles has a completely different story I find. In culinary, we use them as a topper, a flavor, shaved, sliced, or infused. Most of us do know them as a fungus but to talk about a cremini, shitake, morel, or oyster in the same context. I find mainly because you would cast out of the kitchen if you took three full truffles and sauteed them in butter along with garlic and the others already listed. The cost of the truffles would run most away from a dish like that.

    So in short, no vegetables are not real they are just slang used for simplification of a group of plants cultivated, selectively bred, and harvested for profit and convenience.

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