Vegetable plants

Vegetable plants

Vegetable plants

The beneficial properties for health of the vegetables that can be grown in our gardens are not the only peculiarity that distinguishes this botanical genus.

First of all, the numerous variety of species of which it is composed, adaptable to the climatic conditions and the most varied cultural needs, allows its cultivation in all periods of the year, including the winter season, allowing us to obtain excellent products at the same time. quality even with a minimum expenditure of care and attention. Secondly, the strong or delicate, sweet or bitter taste and the very different colors characteristic of the various species allows us to always give our dishes a touch of exquisite originality. Finally, we must not neglect the great abundance of particular principles and substances contained in many vegetables, which allows them to be used in the most diverse fields, from the cosmetic-phytotherapeutic to the antiseptic, to the repellent against insects. Various botanical families are represented in the group of garden plants, but those that include the greatest number of species are the Solanaceae, the Umbrelliferae, the Cruciferae, the Composite and the Liliaceae.

The Solanaceae

Including some of the most colorful and rich in vitamins A and C vegetables, the Solanaceae family includes very common and easy to cultivate species.

Among these we remember:

the tomato, the true king of Mediterranean cuisine, a perennial plant native to South America from which it was transported to Europe in 1540, and whose fruits are made up of green or red berries covered with a smooth and resistant skin. There are numerous varieties that distinguish this vegetable, which we can classify both on the basis of its shape, round, elongated or oval, and on the basis of its use, as a sauce or salad;

the potato, also imported from America, a tuber widely used in cooking which for centuries became a fundamental ingredient in the nutrition of the poorer classes. The versatility of these vegetables means that they can be eaten in pieces or whole, with or without seasoning, with or without peel, but always after cooking, a process that allows the starches contained in them to break down and make them more digestible;

the aubergine, which produces fruits in the shape of a berry, of large size and more or less elongated oval shape, purple in color but also white. It is a plant with summer production very sensitive to cold temperatures and therefore its cultivation is concentrated above all in the regions of central and southern Italy, where its use in the kitchen is highly appreciated;

pepper, another vegetable originating from South America (Brazil), which only arrived in Europe in the mid 1500s. The pepper plant is a shrub with glossy green leaves with single white flowers and which produces fruits in fleshy and hollow berries, green all over beginning, which then become yellow or red with maturation.

The Umbelliferae

The Umbelliferae family, to which about 3000 species belong, for the most part herbaceous, also includes some widely used vegetable plants including:

carrot, a vegetable with straight and branched stem and pink-white flowers, grouped in so-called umbels. Although present in different varieties classified according to the color and shape of the root tap, that is the edible part, the best known is the orange root, very rich in vitamin A;

fennel, a plant probably originating from Asia Minor, already known since ancient times and widespread throughout the Mediterranean area. The cultivated fennel has a sweet taste and its use in the kitchen is limited to the thick white sheath that develops at the base of the plant, about 60-80 cm high;

parsley, a biennial cycle plant native to the Mediterranean area. With a height of 15 to 80 centimeters, parsley has leaves of a beautiful deep green, which depending on the variety can be flat or curly. In the kitchen it adds flavor to a great variety of dishes but should be eaten raw, otherwise it loses flavor;

celery, another biennial plant native to the Mediterranean area, with greenish-white flowers and a height between 30 and 90 cm depending on the variety. The most common of these is the sweet one, of which the long leaf petioles, stems or ribs are consumed. This vegetable is considered a good purifying, diuretic and valid ally in detoxifying and slimming diets.

Vegetable plants: Cruciferae, Composite and Liliaceae

Of great importance for nutrition, given that its strong antioxidant and antitumor activity has been amply demonstrated, the Cruciferae family includes among its species:

cauliflower, with a rounded appearance and whose whitish and compact inflorescence is consumed;

Cabbage, composed of thick curly or smooth leaves superimposed on each other in the shape of a ball and which is used for preparing sauerkraut;

cabbage, a biennial plant quite resistant to cold, formed by an erect stem and numerous quite large leaves that form a globular and compact structure;

the broccoli cabbage, another biennial with a short stem, whitish flowers and deep green inflorescences. It is precisely the latter, when they are not yet ripe, that are used for food purposes.

Very common vegetables belong to the Composite family, which includes about 20,000 species, including:

lettuce, a biennial plant present in many varieties, from the most common smooth one to the Romana and the Gentile;

radicchio, of a beautiful bright red color, with its characteristic bitter taste and crunchy consistency, available in the winter season.

Even the Liliaceae are worthily represented in the garden by the onion, cultivated since ancient times, by far one of the most common vegetables, and by garlic, a bulb highly appreciated for its beneficial properties for health.

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