Vegetable is a culinary term which generally refers to an edible part of a plant. The definition is traditional rather than scientific and is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. All parts of herbaceous plants eaten as food by humans, whole or in part, are normally considered vegetables. Mushrooms, though belonging to the biological kingdom fungi, are also commonly considered vegetables. In general, vegetables are thought of as being savory, and not sweet, although there are many exceptions. Nuts, grains, herbs, spices and culinary fruits (see below) are normally not considered vegetables.

Since “vegetable” is not a botanical term, there is no contradiction in referring to a plant part as a fruit while also being considered a vegetable. Given this general rule of thumb, vegetables can also include leaves (lettuce), stems (asparagus), roots (carrots), flowers (broccoli), bulbs (garlic), seeds (peas and beans) and botanical fruits such as cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and capsicums (bell peppers). Botanically, fruits are reproductive organs (ripened ovaries containing one or many seeds), while vegetables are vegetative organs which sustain the plant.

The question "is it a fruit, or is it a vegetable?" has even found its way into the United States Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden, 1893, that a tomato is a vegetable for the purposes of 1883 Tariff Act, although botanically, a tomato is a fruit.

The distinction between fruits and vegetables is not just semantic. In Judaism, where religious Jewish people recite a blessing before eating food, and each food group has a separate blessing, defining a food as a fruit or vegetable will affect which blessing is chosen.Commercial production of vegetables is a branch of horticulture called olericulture.

Vegetable is also used as a literary term for any plant: vegetable matter, vegetable kingdom.It comes from Latin vegetabilis (animated) and from vegetare (enliven), which is derived from vegetus (active), in reference to the process of a plant growing. This in turn derives from the Proto-Indo-European base *weg- or *wog-, which is also the source of the English wake, meaning "not sleep". The word vegetable was first recorded in print in English in the 14th century. The meaning of "plant grown for food" was not established until the 18th century.

In the diet
Vegetables are eaten in a variety of ways as part of main meals and as snacks. The nutrient content of different types varies considerably. With the exception of pulses, vegetables provide little protein and fat.Vegetables contain water soluble vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin C, fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A and vitamin D, and also contain carbohydrates and minerals and fiber. Among the nutrients vegetables may have include antioxidants, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticarcinogenic nutrients. Also, decaying or rotting vegetables (plant matter in general) may have reduced nutrients, but are often full of probiotic bacteria.


  • The green color of leafy vegetables is due to the presence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is affected by pH and changes to olive green in acid conditions, and bright green in alkaline conditions. Some of the acids are released in steam during cooking, particularly if cooked without a cover.
  • The yellow/orange colors of fruits and vegetables are due to the presence of carotenoids, which are also affected by normal cooking processes or changes in pH.
  • The red/blue coloring of some fruits and vegetables (e.g. blackberries and red cabbage) are due to anthocyanins, which are sensitive to changes in pH. When pH is neutral, the pigments are purple, when acidic, red, and when alkaline, blue. These pigments are very water soluble.

Many root and non-root vegetables that grow underground can be stored through winter in a root cellar or other similarly cool, dark and dry place to prevent mold, greening and sprouting. Care should be taken in understanding the properties and vulnerabilities of the particular roots to be stored. These vegetables can last through to early spring and be nearly as nutritious as when fresh.During storage, leafy vegetables lose moisture and vitamin C degrades rapidly. They should be stored for as short a time as possible in a cool place, in a container or plastic bag.

Current Status Vegetables
In vegetables production, India is next  only to China with an annual production of 87.53 million tonnes from 5.86 million hectares having a share of 14.4% to the world production. Adoption of high yielding cultivars and FI hybrids and suitable production technologies has largely contributed for higher production and productivity.  Per capital consumption has also increased from 95 gram to 175 gram per day. More than 40 kinds of vegetables belonging to different groups, namely cucurbits, cole crops, solanaceous, root and leafy vegetables, are grown in different agro-climatic situations of the country. Except a few, namely brinjal (egg plant), colocasia, cucumber, ridge gourd, sponge gourd, pointed gourd etc., most of the other vegetables have been introduced from abroad. 

Potato is most widely grown vegetable crop in the country with a share of 25.7%. The area under potato cultivation is 1.28 Million ha with total production of 22.49 MT. The main varieties of potato grown in the country are Kufri Chandramukhi, Kufri Jyoti, Kufri Badshah, Kufri Himalani, Kufri Sindhuri, Kufri Lalima etc. Uttar Pradesh is the leading potato growing state in the country with a production of 9.53 million tonnes followed by West Bengal and Bihar.

Tomato occupies second position amongst the vegetable crops in terms of production. The total production of tomato in the country in 1998-99 was 8.27 MT from an area of 0.46 M. ha. The main varieties of tomato grown in the country are Pusa Ruby, Pusa Early Dwarf, Arka Abha, Arka Alok, Pant Bahar, Pusa hybrid-1, Pusa hybrid-2, MTH-6, Arka Vardan etc. Andhra Pradesh is the largest grower of tomato with a production of 2.05 MT. The other main tomato growing states are Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa.

Brinjal occupies the third position amongst vegetable crops. The production of brinjal in the year 1998-99 was  7.88 MT from an area 0.49 M.ha. The varieties of brinjal popular in the country are Arka Navneet, Pusa Ankur, Hybrid-6, Pusa hybrid-5, ARBH-1, ABH-1, Pusa Purple Long, Pusa Purple Cluster, Ritu Raj etc. West Bengal is the largest producer of brinjal followed by Maharashtra and Bihar. The other main state growing brinjal Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat,  Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Madhya Pradesh.

Cabbage is the fourth most widely grown vegetable crop of our country. India is the leading country producing Cabbage. The area under Cabbage cultivation is  0.23 M.ha producing 5.62 MT. The main varieties of cabbage are Pusa Drum Head, Golden Acre, Pride of India, Pusa Mukta, Pusa Synthetic etc. West Bengal produces 1.84 MT  and is the largest grower of the cabbage. Orissa and Bihar occupies second and third position respectively.

  The other major growers of cabbage are Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The other important vegetable crops grown in the country are onion, chillies, peas, beans, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, bottlegourd, cucumber, watermelon, palak, methi, carrot and radish.

Commercial Mushroom
Commercial Mushroom cultivation and production is of recent origin in India, though consumption of mushroom has considerable past.  Mushroom Industry in India had a humble beginning in late sixties when a few progressive growers in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir started growing button mushrooms on commercial scale.  Mushrooms are known for their delicacy, flavour and nutritional value.  They are envisaged to fill up the nutritional requirements of the growing population.  They contain 90% water, 3.7% protein, 2.4% carbohydrates and 0.6% minerals.  Vitamin B and C are also found in Mushroom.  Thiamin, Riboflavin, Biotin, Naicin, Pentothenic Acid, Folic Acid and also Vitamin 12 normally not found in vegetables are found in Mushrooms. In early nineties, export oriented units were put up by corporate houses/industrialists in length and breadth of the country with use of advanced machinery/computers for mushroom growing.  In a span of 5-6 years in nineties the mushroom production in India has increased 6-7 fold and at present production of mushroom stands at 40,000 tons.