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

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

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)
Chinese gooseberry family
Amaryllis or Onion family
Garlic, leek, onion, shallot, chives
Cashew or Sumac family
Cashew, pistacia, mango, marula
Custard apple family
Anona, pawpaw (papaya), ylang-ylang
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
Borage or Forget-me-not family
Borage, comfrey, oyster plant, bugloss
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
Bromeliad family
Goosefoot or beet family
Beetroot, chard, spinach, silverbeet, quinoa, goosefoot, good king henry, fat hen
Blindweed or Morning Glory family
Sweet potato, water spinach
Squash and pumpkin family
Squash, gourd, pumpkin, zucchini, marrow, melons, cucumber, luffa, watermelon, gherkin
Persimmon and ebony family
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
Currant and gooseberry family
Gooseberry, currant
Mint family
Basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender
Laurel family
Bay laurel, avocado, cinnamon
Loosestrife family
Mallow or Hibiscus family
Okra, rosella, cocoa, mallow
Mulberry and fig family
Fig, mulberry
Banana family
Banana, plantain
Myrtle family
Myrtle, clove, guava, feijoa, allspice, eucalyptus, brush cherry
Olive family
Olive, ashes, lilac, jasmine
Passion flower family
Granadilla (passion fruit),
True grass family
Maize (corn), wheat, millet, rye, oat, ryegrass, sorghum, rice, barley, lemongrass
Buckwheat family
Buckwheat, sorrel, rhubarb
Rose family
Plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds, apples, pears, quiches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberry, cotoneaster, hawthorn, medlars, loquats, damson, gage, loganberry, boysenberry, cloudberry, dewberry, wineberry
Citrus or Rue family
Orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, kumquat, curry tree,  mandarin, calamansi, common rue, clementine
Soapberry family
Litchi (lychee), maple, horse chestnut
Nightshade or Potato family
Potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers (capsicum), tomatillo, cape gooseberry
Verbena/Vervain family
Verbenas (lemon)
Grape family
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


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



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.

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


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 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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