Roots 'n' Shoots: Edibles: Food Plant Families & Botanical Definitions

Edibles: Food Plant Families & Botanical Definitions

Here are the plant families to which our crops, spices, fruits, herbs and vegetables belong. Also supplied are the botanical definitions for some fruits, vegetables and herbs.


Food Plant Families

Family (Scientific classification)
Represents
Members
Actinidiaceae
Chinese gooseberry family
Kiwifruit
Amaryllidaceae
Amaryllis or Onion family
Garlic, leek, onion, shallot, chives
Anacardiaceae
Cashew or Sumac family
Cashew, pistacia, mango, marula
Annonaceae
Custard apple family
Anona, pawpaw (papaya), ylang-ylang
Apiaceae
Carrot or Parsley family
Cumin, anise, caraway, carrot, fennel , chervil, cicely, coriander, cilantro, dill, wormwood a, lovage, parsley, parsnip
Asteraceae or Compositae
Aster, Daisy or Sunflower family
Salsify, scorzonera, lettuce, endive, chicory, celery b, angelica b, florence fennel, chamomile, tansy, tarragon
Boraginaceae
Borage or Forget-me-not family
Borage, comfrey, oyster plant, bugloss
Brassicaceae
Cabbage or Crucifer family
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, rapeseed, radish, horseradish, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, daikon, kale, kohl rabi, mustard, swede, watercress, savoys, rocket, land cress
Bromeliaceae
Bromeliad family
Pineapple
Chenopodiaceae*
Goosefoot or beet family
Beetroot, chard, spinach, silverbeet, quinoa, goosefoot, good king henry, fat hen
Convolvulaceae
Blindweed or Morning Glory family
Sweet potato, water spinach
Cucurbitaceae
Squash and pumpkin family
Squash, gourd, pumpkin, zucchini, marrow, melons, cucumber, luffa, watermelon, gherkin
Ebenaceae
Persimmon and ebony family
Persimmon
Ericaceae
Heath or Heather family
Cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, bilberry, loganberry
Fabaceae or Leguminosae
Legume, pea or bean family
Pea, beans, soybean, chickpea, alfalfa, peanut, carob, liquorice, vetch, lupin, lentil
Grossulariaceae
Currant and gooseberry family
Gooseberry, currant
Lamiaceae
Mint family
Basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender
Lauraceae
Laurel family
Bay laurel, avocado, cinnamon
Lythraceae
Loosestrife family
Pomegranate,
Malvaceae
Mallow or Hibiscus family
Okra, rosella, cocoa, mallow
Moraceae
Mulberry and fig family
Fig, mulberry
Musaceae
Banana family
Banana, plantain
Myrthaceae
Myrtle family
Myrtle, clove, guava, feijoa, allspice, eucalyptus, brush cherry
Oleaceae
Olive family
Olive, ashes, lilac, jasmine
Passifloraceae
Passion flower family
Granadilla (passion fruit),
Poaceae
True grass family
Maize (corn), wheat, millet, rye, oat, ryegrass, sorghum, rice, barley, lemongrass
Polygonaceae
Buckwheat family
Buckwheat, sorrel, rhubarb
Rosaceae
Rose family
Plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds, apples, pears, quiches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberry, cotoneaster, hawthorn, medlars, loquats, damson, gage, loganberry, boysenberry, cloudberry, dewberry, wineberry
Rutaceae
Citrus or Rue family
Orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, kumquat, curry tree,  mandarin, calamansi, common rue, clementine
Sapindaceae
Soapberry family
Litchi (lychee), maple, horse chestnut
Solanaceae
Nightshade or Potato family
Potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers (capsicum), tomatillo, cape gooseberry
Verbenaceae
Verbena/Vervain family
Verbenas (lemon)
Vitaceae
Grape family
Grapevine
Zingiberaceae
Ginger family
Ginger, turmeric, cardamom
* As of 2003 the Chenopodiaceae family has been combined with the Amaranthaceae family. The Amatanthaceae family has been divided into Amaranthoideae subfamily, for amaranths, and Chenopodiodeae subfamily, for the chenopods.
Wormwood family discrepancies, may belong to Asteraceae. Please see comments section.
bCelery/Angelica family discrepancies, may belong to Apiaceae. Please see comments section.


Botanical Definitions


Vegetable

This is any edible part of a plant, and in my opinion excludes the fruiting part (seeds containing structure). Vegetables therefore are stems, leaves, flowers, roots, bulbs and tubers.

Stem vegetables include: Celery, kohl rabi, asparagus
Leaves: Lettuce, cabbage, spinach
Flowers: Broccoli, cauliflower
Roots: Beet, carrots, parsnip, radish, turnip, swede, salsify
Tubers: Potato, yam, sweet potato, yaro
Bulbs: Onions, garlic


Vegetables


Herbs

Herbs are soft plants that do not form permanent woody tissue and may be annual, biennial or perennial and regularly form shrubs. The term ‘herb’ applies mostly to plants with some medicinal or culinary property.
Fruits

The botanical definition of a fruit is the mature ovary of a flower and contains seeds. The fleshy part of the fruit may be soft or dry. Therefore fruits can be apples, pears and mango with which we are all familiar, but fruits also include tomatoes, cucumber, beans, squash and eggplant.

As with everything in life fruits can be differentiated into various fruit types, based upon the number of ovaries and overall fruit structure:

A quick look at fruits

Simple


Compound
Dry
Fleshy
Multiple
Aggregate
Dehiscent - pea
Drupes – plum
Accessory - strawberry
Syconium – fig
Indehiscent - wall nut
Berry – redcurrant
Balausta - pomegranate
Sorosis - mulberry

Pome - apple










Simple fruits

Fruit develops from a single/compound ovary of a single flower with a single. These include dry and fleshy fruits. Dry fruits are further classified into dehiscent (split upon ripening) and indehiscent (do not split upon ripening).

Fleshy simple fruit include; drupes, berries (hesperidium, pepo) and pomes.

·         Drupes: ‘Stone fruit’, contains hard inedible pips - plum, cherry, peach, apricot, olive

·         Berries: ‘Soft fruit’ containing many seeds in one fruit - redcurrant, gooseberry, tomato, cranberry, pepper, eggplant

o   Hesperidium: Berry with a leathery rind and segmented fruit pulp - all citrus
o   Pepo: Berry with watery flesh and flat seeds – Cucurbit/gourd family (squash, cucumber, melon, pumpkin, watermelon)

·         Pomes: The fruits from the Rosaceae family that develop from a half-inferior ovary – apples, pears, rosehips, saskatoon berry



Squash - A berry!


Dry simple fruits include; dehiscent (follicle, legume, silique, capsule) and indehiscent (samara, achene, caryopsis, nut).

·         Dehiscent: Ovary splits upon maturing
o   Follicle: Pod formed from a single carpel and splits on one side – milkweed, peony, magnolia
o   Legume: Pod from a leguminous plant (fixes own nitrogen for growth) – pea, bean, soya, peanut
o   Silique: Long pods from the mustard family and splits from both sides – fruits/seeds of the cabbage family (not the cabbage/leafy part we eat!)
o   Capsule: Pod formed from two carpels – brazil nut, horse chestnut, poppy, lily,

·         Indehiscent: Ovary does not split upon maturing
o   Samara: Single seeded fruit with a flat and fibrous winged structure has formed over the ovary, to be carried by the wind – sycamore, elm seeds
o   Achene: Single seeded fruit – buckwheat, buttercup
o   Caryopsis: Single seeded fruit where the pericarp is fused to the seed – cereals, grass seeds
o   Nut: Hard fruit or shell encasing the seed – acorn, hazelnut, wall nut

Pea - dehiscent, legume


Compound Fruits

Fruit develops from multiple ovaries. Two categories of compound fruit exist - aggregate and multiple fruits

·         Multiple: Coalesced ovaries of an entire interflorescence (the flowering structure)
o   Accessory: Fruit not formed from the ovary, but from an exterior nonovarian tissue, such as the receptacle, which forms the base of the flower stem – strawberry
o   Balausta: Old term for the fruits of the pomegranate - it is now known as a 'Hyp', a multiple of drupes

·         Aggregate: Many ovaries attached to a single receptacle forming fruitlets
o   Syconium: ‘Receptacle fruit’, flowers/fruit and seeds form within the stem/receptacle. Each fig has its own specialist fig wasp for pollination, fig and wasp are dependent on the other and co-evolve together – Ficus family, figs
o   Sorosis: The fruit is formed by the consolidation of many ovaries – mulberry

Multiple fruit, Strawberry


This is a simple guide; as many fruits fall into multiple categories and some are further differentiated in the main categories. Check out http://www.northernontarioflora.ca/fruits_term_types.cfm for a complete list – but make sure you know the botany terms for flower and fruit structures first J or refer to this amazing book form Oxford University Press – The New Oxford Book of Food Plants or the Saving Seeds book References.

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6 comments:

  1. Hello! I find the list of families to be very useful. However, are you sure that celery is Asteraceae? I think it is Apiaceae.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the input!

    Hmmm... celery is listed as Asteraceae according to my 'The New Oxford Book of Food Plants' - maybe they are re-classifying groups (considering that Asteraceae and Apiaceae are sister families) as taxonomists seemingly can't make up their minds LOL! I do hope the book is correct and its not a typo - I paid a small fortune for it, but I also know that taxonomic changes sometimes take a long time to filter through all the literature...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been looking around a bit more on a few internet sources. It seems that there are some discrepancies around the Apiaceae and Asteraceae groups, such that I find wormwood in Asteraceae and celery/angelica in Apiaceae.

    The tree of life project mentions that: "According to Bremer (1994), the Asteroideae are characterized (with some exceptions) by having true ray florets, disc corollas with short lobes, caveate pollen, stigmatic surfaces of style branches separated into two marginal lines sometimes confluent at apices, and a distinctive secondary chemistry. These morphological characteristics are rarely seen in Cichorioideae." @ http://www.tolweb.org/asteraceae. But they don't have info on Apiaceae.

    On the Encyclopaedia of Britannica I find that Angelica/Celery = Apiaceae whereas Wormwood = Asteraceae (which makes more sense to me as well if you look at the flowering/stem structures). So I think I'll just make a note in the table about the possible swapping of groups. It is possible my book as a typo (which would be strange considering that a plant taxonomic expert wrote it, but the classifications could also be his personal preference as well...). It is also possible that celery/angelica & wormwood are genetically closer related to the Asteraceae and Apiaceae respectively, although their flowering structures suggest the opposite... which would also be even more ironic considering that Apiaceae is names after the genus of celery (Apium)...

    Anyways - I will amend the table!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your consideration. You are clearly dedicated to your work.

      Delete
  4. Good day.
    Loganberry appears under different families.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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