What is meant by the term vegetable? The term vegetable in its broadest sense refers to any kind of plant life or plant product; it usually refers to the fresh edible portion of a herbaceous plant consumed either raw or cooked. The edible portion may be a root like a rutabaga, beet, carrot, and sweet potato; a tuber or storage stem such as potato and taro; the stem as in asparagus and kohlrabi; a bud such as Brussels sprouts; a bulb such as onion and garlic; a petiole or leafstock like celery and rhubarb; a leaf such as cabbage, lettuce, parsley, spinach, and chive; an immature flower like cauliflower, broccoli, and artichoke; a seed like pea and Lima beans; the immature fruit like brinjal (eggplant), cucumber, and sweet corn (maize) or the mature fruit like tomato and chili.
Those plants or plant parts that are usually consumed with the main course of a meal are popularly regarded as vegetables, while those mainly used as desserts are considered fruits. Actually, cooked vegetables constitute our principal meals, while fruits are consumed as desserts. Thus, cucumber and tomato are botanically fruits, but they are mainly used as vegetables.
It is an accepted and well-settled fact that cooking or heat destroys nutritive value of vegetables. The tender leaves and stems of fresh vegetables contain the highest percentage of vitamins and minerals. If they are consumed fresh in a raw state (as expressed juice), it will be highly beneficial for the body to keep fit and healthy. For this reason there is now a growing tendency to consume more vegetables and fruits in their raw states.
Many elements are required to make a diet that is nutritionally adequate, and no single natural food can supply all. Vegetables supply some elements in which other food materials are deficient. The dark green leafy vegetables are rich sources of carotene that is converted by the body into vitamin A. Vitamin C is also amply provided by leafy and green vegetables.
Few vegetables are valuable sources of proteins or carbohydrates; beans and peas are rich in iron and proteins; potatoes and sweet potatoes are important sources of carbohydrates; citrus fruits supply most of the vitamins, including ascorbic acid in plenty.
Classification of Vegetables
Vegetables are classified on the basis of the part of the plant such as root, stem, or tuber that is used for food.
Root vegetables: The root group includes beets, carrots, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and yams.
Stem vegetables: The stem group includes asparagus and kohlrabi.
Tuber vegetables: The tuber is an underground stem. Edible tubers include Jerusalem artichoke, potato, taro, and yam.
Leaf and leaf-stalk vegetables: The leaf group includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, chard, chicory, endive, lettuce, parsley, rhubarb (pie), and spinach.
Bulb vegetables: The bulb group includes garlic, leek, and onion.
Immature inflorescence vegetables: This group includes artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Immature fruit vegetables: This group includes cowpea, cucumber, papaya, jackfruit (ichar), eggplant (brinjal), Lima bean, okra, pea, and summer squash (gourd).
Mature fruit vegetables: This group includes muskmelon, pumpkin, tomato and watermelon.
Do you know how to make sure you are in good health? Eating vegetables is a good start.