Edible Parts of Plants

Did you realize that when you take a bite of broccoli that those little green bits are actually flowers? Or, that corn kernels or seeds? And here’s a mind-blowing one: When you cook with the spice cloves, you’re using the flower of the plant! After we started investigating the plant-forward movement in the article “Lettuce Celebrate Plants,” it got us wondering: What kinds of plant parts can a person eat?

All of the fruits and veggies we ingest, are one of six edible plant parts—seed, root, stem, leaf, fruit and flower. Fruit is the ripe ovary of a flower, while vegetables fall into roots, tubers, leaves, stems and other plant bits. Think of the term vegetable as an umbrella that comprises of different edible parts of plants. Now, certain plants offer more than one edible bit. For example, the radish bulb often in salads and pickles is considered a root vegetable, but their leafy greens can also be eaten.

Seed: This is the reproductive part of the plant.

  • Examples: Corn, peas, pinto beans, rice, soybeans, wheat

Root: A plant’s roots are found underground where they can get nourishment through the soil.

  • Examples: Beets, carrots, potatoes, radish, turnips

Stem: This is the main body or stalk of the plant.

  • Examples: Asparagus, celery, rhubarb, Swiss chard

Leaf: Flat and green, the leaves are attached to the stem.

  • Examples: Cabbage, parsley, spinach, radish greens, Swiss chard greens

Fruit: This is a plant that contains visible seeds and the result is a sweet, fleshy product—often from a tree.

  • Examples: Apple, bananas, eggplant, olive, orange, pumpkin, tomato

Flower: These are brightly colored and bears the seed.

  • Examples: Broccoli, cauliflower, cloves, zucchini blossoms

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