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 kohrabi; 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 (egg-plant), cucumber and sweet corn (maize) or the mature fruit like tomato and chilli.
Distinction between fruits and vegetables
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 vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables - their importance
It is an accepted and well-settled fact that cooking or heat destroys nutritive value of the 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.
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 and they neutralise acid substances produced in the course of digestion of meats, cheese and ghee-prepared foods. The dark green leafy vegetables are rich source of carotene which 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; citrous fruits supply most of the vitamins including ascorbic acid in plenty.
For this reason there is now a growing tendency to consume more vegetables and fruits in their raw states.
Vegetables that are usually consumed in their raw state
All vegetables can't be consumed in their raw state. Some important vegetables are isolated by the medical scientists for healing purposes. They are carrots, beans, spinach, parsley, turnip, watercress, cucumber, tomato, garlic, onion, fennel, string beans, Brussels sprouts, laqy's finger, lemon, celery, lettuce, radish, papaya, green jack-fruit, cabbage etc.
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 kohlarabi.
Tuber vegetables:- The tuber is an underground stem. Edible tubers include girasole or 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.
Fruits used as vegetables:- The immature fruits are used as vegetables, viz. cow-pea, cucumber, papaya, jack-fruit (ichar), egg-plant (brinjal), Lima bean, okra, pea, summer squash (gourd).
Mature fruit vegetables:- This group includes musk-melon, pumpkin, tomato and water-melon.
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