The term “vegetable” originally applied to all plant species. Say that a magnificent bargad tree is a vegetable! What then became of the modern vegetable? Let’s investigate.

Did you know that the term "vegetable" previously applied to all plants and trees?

Since its inception, the term “vegetable” has evolved to refer to all living organisms. It now firmly designates a particular food group in our lexicon. However, how did this word come to be used, and what precisely makes something a vegetable?

When we saw this video, which claimed that vegetables don’t exist, we were taken aback. The video discusses how, despite their common name, all veggies are not the same. For instance, spinach is a leaf and potatoes are tubers.

Sangeeta Khanna, a nutrition and culinary consultant, helps us to understand the history behind the word.

The first language we encounter on our tour is Proto-Indo-European, where the root *weg- or *wog-meant “to be strong, be lively.” This idea was translated into Latin as “vegetabilis,” which means “growing, flourishing.” The word “vegetable” was first used in French in the fifteenth century, and it quickly made its way into English.

The term “vegetable” originally applied to all plant species. Say that a magnificent bargad tree is a vegetable!

The Medieval Latin word “vegetabilis” (meaning “growing or gaining strength (by plants)”), according to Khanna, “became the word for all plant parts used for culinary purposes in those times, when Latin words became root words for many scientific learnings.”

It wasn’t always easy to distinguish between fruits and vegetables. Classification was frequently hazy due to culinary use rather than botanical details. A more precise definition of “vegetable” as “plant cultivated for food, an edible herb or root” did not appear until the 18th century. Conversely, fruits were thought to be the juicy, delicious portions of a plant that held seeds.

Since the word “vegetable” has been used in cooking for at least 200 years, some non-sweet fruits are also referred to as vegetables since they are prepared in savory recipes similarly to other vegetative plant components.

According to botanical terminology, which derives from “vegetative plant parts,” the majority of vegetables are actually vegetables, while others are actually fruits. According to Khanna, in an interview with, “vegetative plant parts are those that grow vigorously and store food until it’s the time or season to bear fruits and seeds for propagation.”

The distinction between a fruit and a vegetable can still be hazy. According to botany, fruits are produced from the ovary of a flower and contain seeds for further growth. Conversely, vegetables can be any part of a plant, including the leaves (spinach), stems (celery), roots (carrots), or even flowers (broccoli).

A useful guideline is that anything that is used for its non-seed components and tastes savory is probably a vegetable. But there are plenty of exceptions! For instance, bell peppers are utilized in cuisine more like vegetables even though they are actually fruits with seeds.

The world of vegetables is still growing. Novel possibilities arrive on our plates as a result of new discoveries and farming techniques. Consider the surge in popularity of baby vegetables or seaweed, which is a type of marine algae.

The term “vegetable” may change as our knowledge of botany and nutrition expands. However, one thing never changes: veggies are an integral part of a balanced diet since they include important fiber, vitamins, and minerals. So keep in mind the lengthy and intriguing history behind this essential component of our cuisine the next time you have a salad or some steamed vegetables.

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