I'm building a web-app related to plants so I want to understand this a little bit more!

Basic Info regarding App:

A user can enter a keyword (e.g. "Lettuce", "Mint", "Orange").

The app would then search on Wikipedia to get more information and present it to users! What I want to do to limit the results from Wikipedia is to use tags/categories that would eliminate irrelevant articles.

Therefore my questions are:

  • Are all vegetables edible?
  • Are herbs considered as vegetables?
  • Are culinary goods edible?
  • Is there one universal word for edible plant-based diet (veggies, fruits, flowers, herbs, ...)?
  • It's not necessarily a question about biology: there are biological definitions of terms like plant and vegetable, but they don't necessarily correspond with common usage. – Stuart F Apr 28 at 15:38
  • Whether or not this is correctly scoped for ELU, it consists of multiple questions and offers no research. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 28 at 15:57

There is no single, unambiguous definition of vegetable.

The culinary definition of vegetable (i.e. that used in cooking, the food industry, agriculture, etc) is different to the biological: see Vegetable on Wikipedia. While biologists generally agree on what is a vegetable (basically synonymous with plant), it's less clear what is meant in common usage: it may exclude grains, nuts, flowers, herbs, some fruits, and some other parts of some plants; it may also include mushrooms and other fungi which are biologically not plants. As Wikipedia says, vegetable can mean either any plant matter, or specifically plant matter used as food (what plants are used for food varies around the world, and there is variation between what is used as animal fodder and as human food, and what is or isn't edible is not simple.)

People debate whether tomatoes, eggplants (aubergines), etc, which are biologically fruits are fruits in the sense of everyday language, and there have been lawsuits on the matter (e.g. Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), regarding tomatoes).

Herbs seem to meet the criteria to be foods but as Wikipedia points out there is commonly a division in culinary langauge between vegetables, eaten for macronutrients, and herbs, used in small quantities for flavouring. There is a biological/botanical definition of herb , but it's completely different (plants without woody stems).

There doesn't seem to be a clear definition of "culinary goods" but it may include cooking utensils (see e.g. Stock Culinary Goods) as well as foods.


Are all vegetables edible?

Since this is an app for general users, not an app for biologists, any layperson perceives all vegetables as edible. That is supported by the first two dictionary definitions of "vegetable," meaning the two definitions most commonly used, which are:

  1. any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food, as the tomato, bean, beet, potato, onion, asparagus, spinach, or cauliflower.
  2. the edible part of such a plant, as the tuber of the potato.

Above, you'll note in bold the parts of the definitions that explicitly define "vegetable" as being food, as being edible. Also, note that these are layperson definitions, how people in general use and perceive the term, people like app users, not scientific definitions. Were they scientific definitions, the first definition wouldn't include as an examples "tomato" and "bean," which are scientifically classified as fruit since they grow on a vine and contain seeds. That's why the definition itself uses "fruit" and "or," meaning not all plants "fruit" are considered vegetables in this lay definition, but just some, like tomatoes and beans, whereas other fruits, like bananas and grapes, aren't considered vegetables by laypeople.

Are herbs considered as vegetables?

Again, there is a difference between what laypeople would say and what scientists would say. A scientist would say an "herb" is a vegetable because any plant that's edible, like an "herb" is, is a vegetable. However, laypeople don't consider an "herb" to be a "vegetable" but its own thing, an "herb," their own thing, a plant that may be eaten but whose primary use isn't sustenance but instead is "valued for its medicinal properties, flavor, scent, or the like."

Are culinary goods edible?

No. "Culinary goods" are cooking utensils.

Is there one universal word for edible plant-based diet (veggies, fruits, flowers, herbs, ...)?

Yes, it's "vegetarian diet" or "vegetarianism." While many may focus on the fact that vegetarians don't eat meat, especially nonvegetarians, as that is its greatest contrast to a "regular" diet, the word itself was coined to put focus on what they do eat, which is vegetables, not what they don't eat.

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