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We often use the word vegetable to refer both to all kinds of plants, and specifically to the vegetables, fruits and vegetables that we grow and commonly use for our food.
However, finding the proper definition of this word is not easy and requires talking about it in greater depth. If you want to learn more about what are vegetables and examples of these, join us in this simple and interesting article by Green Ecologist.
What are vegetables and their characteristics
To begin with, it is convenient to address the etymological origin of the word. Vegetal comes from Latin I will vegetate, which means to vivify or to be alive. Traditionally, the word was used to refer to those organisms with little or no responsiveness to their environment, commonly referring to fungi, algae and plants.
Currently, however, it is very common to use the term as a synonym for the kingdom Plantae in the informal sphere, such as the parts of plants that we use in the food industry for human consumption. The term vegetal kingdom It has also been used since ancient times in classical Greece, but modern botany has made the term obsolete.
When we refer to them colloquially as synonymous with the kingdom Plantae, the characteristics of vegetables are as follows:
- They are eukaryotic living beings.
- They do not have the capacity for voluntary locomotion.
- The vast majority of them are photosynthetic.
- Thanks to this previous point, they are also autotrophs.
- Plant cells have their own cellulose-based cell wall.
- They are made up of roots, stem and leaves for the most part, as well as flowers and fruits in some cases.
Thus, we find ourselves before a group of multicellular beings that form the base of the food chain in practically all media on the planet, since its ability to transform sunlight and inorganic matter into organic matter, usable by other organisms, is key in the formation of our planet as we know it.
Formerly it was believed that plants or vegetables have no senses or ability to react to changes in the environment, but it has been shown that this is not true. Plants feel and react in an infinity of ways, some of them even more complex and refined than those of animals. They are complete living beings and deserve our respect and appreciation. To expand your knowledge on this topic, we encourage you to read these other Green Ecologist articles on Do plants feel pain? and How plants communicate.
Types of vegetables
When we talk about vegetables as part of the human diet, which is one of the most common uses of the word outside the scientific field, it is common to divide them according to the part we eat. Thus, while we consider all the plants we feed on as a vegetable, we distinguish them according to whether we eat their roots or their leaves. These are some types or examples of vegetables within this context:
- Bulbs: They are the part that is between the root and the stem, which in some species grows as a food and water reserve. Beet, onion and garlic are bulbs, but if you want to know more, enter here and discover 15 plants with bulbs.
- Estate: the organ with which the plant absorbs nutrients is of great nutritional value in many species. Some of the best known are carrot, turnip or radish, which thanks to artificial selection are today much meatier and suitable for our consumption. In this other post you can learn more about the Types of roots.
- Tubers: Generated in the roots of some plants, they are reserves of substances with the highest contribution of carbohydrates among plants. They are very nutritious and come from America. The potato and the sweet potato are especially known, as well as the yam. Learn more about What are tubers and examples by entering this link.
- Stems: The stem is the part of the plant that gives it structure and supports the leaves, flowers and fruits, but it can also be an excellent food. Celery, asparagus, and leeks are examples of this. Discover various types of stems here.
- Leaves: this type is one of the most common. We find among them lettuce, spinach, chard and arugula. Learn about the different types of leaves at this link.
- Fruits: Fruits include some of the most highly regarded and nutritious vegetables. Tomato, cucumber, apple, or avocado are just a few examples. In this other post we talk about the different types of fruits.
- Seeds: They are also highly valued for their nutritional properties. Some of the most consumed like this are broad beans, sesame or chia. In these other Green Ecologist articles we tell you what seeds are and their types, as well as the parts of the seed and their functions.
We also find vegetables from which we consume their rhizome, such as ginger, or others from which we eat the inflorescence, such as artichoke or cauliflower.
Uses of vegetables
Some of the uses of vegetables are:
- One of the most important uses of vegetables is in the food industry, both in humans and in domestic animals. When we talk about what are edible vegetablesWe refer to all those with beneficial properties for human consumption of any of its parts.
- At a lower level, vegetables are also used as an important decoration and landscape element, from the ornamental plants that many of us have in our homes and gardens, to the designs of large parks and green areas that improve our quality of life.
- It is also known that vegetables produce oxygen through photosynthesis, but its impact is much less than that of oxygen produced by seaweed.
What are the most important vegetables
All vegetables are important to maintain biodiversity and the balance of ecosystems, but for humans, we could say that the most important are the ones we consume the most. In that sense, 5 most important vegetables are:
- The corn
- The wheat
- The potato
If you want to read more articles similar to What are vegetablesWe recommend that you enter our Nature Curiosities category.