a cultivated or wild herbaceous plant whose succulent parts, or vegetables, are used as food. There are more than 1,200 species of vegetable plants, constituting 78 families. Approximately 600 species are cultivated, and 600 species grow wild. The fruits of some vegetable plants are edible: for example, the tomato, eggplant, pepper, cucumber, watermelon, pea, and bean. Other vegetable plants yield edible shoots, leaves, leaf stalks, and heads (cabbage, lettuce, spinach, dill, chard), bulbs (onion, garlic, leek); and thickened roots (carrot, beet, turnip, radish). Mushrooms are also included among vegetable plants.
There are annual, biennial, and perennial vegetable plants. The annuals complete their life cycle, from seed to seed, in one year and then die (beans, melons, radish, dill). Biennials form their edible organs in the first year and produce seed in the second (onion, garlic, artichokes, root crops except radish, and cabbages except cauliflower and Chinese cabbage). Perennial vegetable plants (rhubarb, dock, asparagus, tarragon, Welsh onion) are characterized by repeated fruiting and formation of seed.
Most vegetable plants are native to the tropical and subtropical zones. Many are thermophile and require fertile and moist soil. Certain species are cold resistant and may be cultivated in the north. Cold-resistant species may be planted early in the temperate regions and in the winter in subtropical regions. (See also.)
G. V. BOOS