vegetable, term originally used for any plant, now the name for many food plants, most of them annuals, and for their edible parts. There is no clear botanical distinction between vegetables and fruits. Most vegetables consist largely of water, making them low in calories. They are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, and iron. Legumes (e.g., dried beans, peas, and lentils) are a good source of complex carbohydrates, have a high protein content, and can be used to some extent as meat substitutes. In the United States the demand for fresh vegetables during all seasons has been met by improved methods of handling and shipping and the development of large commercial truck farms and market gardens, especially in California, Florida, and Texas, plus importation from other countries such as Chile. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture guidelines for a healthy diet recommend 3 to 5 servings of vegetables daily.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.