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.
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 wyrtinstead. 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 Wort, for 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!!!