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20 vegetables and their botanical or scientific names

Although edible plants constitute an important part of our daily diet, most people don’t know the most common vegetables and their botanical names.

Understanding vegetables and their scientific names is a good idea, and this is why:

Botanical names of vegetables reveal the relationship between two or more vegetables, as similar species of plants share scientific names.

Therefore, when you know the scientific names of vegetables, you can tell which vegetables are related.

In this article, we shall explore 20 vegetables and their botanical names, their characteristics, where they are grown, and conducive conditions for their growth.

1. Cabbage – Brassica oleracea

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea)
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea). Image: Unsplash/Dancristianpaduret

To start us off on our list of scientific names of vegetables is cabbage, which belongs to the Brassica oleracea species.

Green cabbage, which consists of a bunch of green smooth leaves that form a firm head, is the most common type.

There is also purple cabbage, red, white, spring greens, and savoy cabbage, which are uncommon.

Generally, cabbages thrive in fertile, well-drained soils. It also requires full sun to grow healthy. Very low or high temperatures can lead to premature flowering.

Cabbages are grown in almost every part of the world. However, China is the largest grower, accounting for 48% of the total cabbages grown worldwide.

2. Lettuce – Lactuca sativa

Lettuce (Asteraceae)
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Image: Unsplash/Thejefwright

Lettuce is a green leafy vegetable that is grown for not only consumption but also medicinal and religious purposes.

It belongs to the family Asteraceae. Apart from its succulent leaves, lettuce is also grown for its seeds and stem.  

Lettuce was predominantly grown in North America and Europe, but the crop’s popularity has spread worldwide.

China is the largest lettuce producer, with 53 percent of total production. Just like cabbage, lettuce grows best in well-drained, loose soil in a location that receives full sun.

3. Kale – Brassica oleracea

Kale (Brassica oleracea)
Kale (Brassica oleracea). Credit: Wikimedia/Rasbak

Kale is a green or, in some cases, purple leafy vegetable that belongs to the Brassica oleracea family.

Various kale varieties are sometimes grown for ornamental purposes, but the main focus is their fleshy edible leaves.

Although kale thrives in full sun, it is a hardy plant that grows even in winter, with temperatures ranging as low as -15 degrees. It also does well in fertile firm soil that is well-drained.

Kale is grown and consumed in many parts of the world, with China and North America being the largest growers of this vegetable.

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4. Spinach – Spinacia oleracea

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Credit: Wikimedia/Rasbak

Next on our list of vegetables with their scientific names is spinach which belongs to the Spinacia oleracea family.

This green vegetable with spade-shaped leaves originated in Asia but is now grown worldwide in different varieties.

China leads with 92% of the world’s total production of Spinach, with other countries like the USA, Kenya, and Turkey being major growers too.

Spinach grows better in the full sun but will also do well in an area with shade. Also, spinach will thrive in rich loam soil that is well drained with a pH of 6.5 to 7.

5. Broccoli – Brassica oleracea

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea). Image: Pixabay/jsbaw7160

Broccoli is a cool-weather plant whose flower-like head, stalk, and leaves are consumed as a vegetable.

The vegetable is rich in vitamins C and K, preserved if steamed rather than boiled.

Broccoli flourishes in cool weather and does not like excessive heat.

This vegetable originated in the Roman Empire before being enhanced via selective breeding and spreading to Northern Europe.

China and India are the largest producers accounting for over 70% of all broccoli grown globally. Other major producers include USA, Mexico, and Spain.

6. Cauliflower – Brassica oleracea

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea)
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea)

Cauliflower, which comes from Brassica oleracea family, is next on our list of leafy vegetables with scientific names.

The main type of cauliflower has white-colored curds wrapped around green leaves. Other varieties of cauliflower come in green, orange, and purple colors. The plant closely resembles broccoli in shape.

Cauliflower requires a moderate climate, well-moist sandy soil, and full sun. The hot sun can cause the vegetable to discolor.

Just like broccoli production, China and India lead, accounting for 72% of the world’s total production.

Other countries with significant production include USA, Mexico, Italy, and Spain.

7. Bok Choy – Brassica rapa

Bok Choy (Brassica)
Bok Choy (Brassica rapa). Image: Flickr/PeterBurka

Bok choy is a famous Chinese cabbage with a sweet and tender taste. The vegetable has green leaves with a smaller white bulb at the bottom, all of which are edible.

Bok Choy is originally from China and is still widely consumed, although it has spread to other parts of the world.

The vegetable flourishes in full sun and can grow in cold and hot weather as long as it is regularly watered. 

8. Wild spider flower – Cleome gynandra

Cleome gynandra (Cleaomaceae)
Cleome gynandra (Cleaomaceae). Photo: Wikimedia/Yercaud-elango

Although it has spread to other parts of the world, Cleome gynandra or spider flower is an annual vegetable that is native to the African content.

Spider plant can grow up to half a meter tall while spreading sideways too. It has small oval-shaped leaves and white clustered flowers.

The shoots, leaves, and flowers are edible, and the leaves tend to have a sharp, bitter taste.

Cleome gynandra is widely grown in Sub-Sahara Africa and tropical regions in Asia due to its drought-resistant characteristics. The vegetable thrives in well-drained soil and full sun.  

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9. Artichoke – Cynara cardunculus

Artichoke (Asteraceae)
Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus). Image: Unsplash/Reut_m

Typically classified as a thistle-cultivated crop, artichoke is a highly oxidant edible vegetable grown for its green flowerhead buds.

The artichoke hearts consist of a large edible head with immature florets enclosed at the center. The plant can grow up to 2 meters tall.

Artichoke is mainly cultivated in California United States, North Africa, and Southern Europe countries.

The vegetable thrives in Mediterranean basin countries with USDA hardiness zone 7. Italy is the largest producer of artichoke, followed by Egypt and Spain.

10. Arugula – Eruca sativa

Arugula (Brassicaceae)
Arugula (Eruca sativa). Credit: Unsplash/Katmed

Also called salad rocket, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable with soft and bite-shaped long leaves.

Arugula is liked because it has a sharp peppery taste that is best in salad making. This leafy vegetable was originally from the Mediterranean region but has also spread to Europe and America.

Apart from its sharp peppery taste, best for salad making, arugula is also loved due to its numerous health benefits, including cancer prevention agents.

This leafy vegetable does well in areas with cool temperatures and rich, slightly acidic soil.

11. Watercress – Nasturtium officinale

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Image: Unsplash/Nebulargroup

Watercress is a nutritious aquatic leafy vegetable that thrives best in dumpy areas such as a natural spring.

The vegetable has feather-like dark green leaves and produces white flowers when mature.

Watercress grows best in cool climates with light sun and lots of water. History has it that watercress is one of the ancient vegetables eaten by people.

The vegetable is originally from Asia and Europe, where it is still grown in large quantities as a source of nutrients.

12. African Nightshade – Solanum nigrum

African Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum). Photo: Flickr/picassofish

African nightshade is a leafy vegetable that is grown due to its nutritional as well as medicinal benefits.

Depending on the species, the name goes by several scientific names, including Solanum scabrum, Solanum villosum, Solanum nigrum, and Solanum americanum.

The vegetable is found in East and West African regions, particularly in the highlands and lowland areas of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Kenya.

African nightshade can grow to a height of up to one meter and has thin spade-like leaves. It also produces red or blue-colored berries that are edible when ripe.

African nightshade flourishes in rich soil and a cool climate with full sun.

13. Carrot – Daucus carota

Carrot (Daucus carota)
Carrot (Daucus carota). Photo: Unsplash/davidholifield

Carrots are root vegetables that are grown for their sweet, nutritious tap roots, although the stem and the leaves are also edible.

Normally, carrots taproots are orange in color with green leaves though some maybe be red, purple, or black.

Carrots are believed to have originated from Persia and spread worldwide. China is the largest grower of carrots accounting for over 44% of total production.

Carrots can grow in different climatic conditions but thrive in full sun with well-drained loam or sandy soil. 

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14. Beetroot – Beta vulgaris

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
Beetroot (Beta vulgaris). Credit: Pixabay/Villemononen

Commonly referred to as beets in America, beetroot is a root vegetable cultivated for its edible root bulb and stem, and leaves.

The nutritious beet greens comprise the beetroot plant’s light purple stems and dark green leaves.

Beets are easy to grow and cultivate in most parts of the world, with Russia being the largest producer.

The vegetable thrives in fertile, loose soil to allow the beet bulbs to form. Adequate water and full sun are required for the beets to mature.

15. Garden Asparagus – Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). Photo: pixabay/shutterbug75

Garden asparagus is a perennial vegetable that is grown for its edible young shoots.

The vegetable can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and have needle-like leaves, but the young shoots at the top end are edible.

Garden asparagus takes approximately two to three years before its ready to harvest, but it can grow up to 15 years.

The vegetable originated in maritime areas and only flourishes in fertile saline soils that are well drained. Asparagus also likes full sun but can withstand shade and winter seasons.

16.  Brussels sprouts – Brassica oleracea

Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea)
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea). Credit: flickr/ulliottj

Brussel sprouts is a type of vegetable that looks like a cluster of small cabbages in shape.

Unlike cabbage, which has one big head, Brussels sprouts can grow up to one meter tall, with many small buds attached around the stem. The green leaves are aligned at the upper end of the Brussels plant.

It is loved due to its nutritional as well as medicinal elements.

The vegetable is mainly cultivated in temperate regions. Brussels sprouts grow in various climatic conditions but mostly thrive in cool weather with well-drained soil.

Although Netherlands and Germany are still the largest producers of the Brussels Sprouts, the vegetable is heavily consumed in America and Mexico.

17.  Kohlrabi – Brassica oleracea

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea)
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea). Photo: unsplash/markusspiske

Kohlrabi, also called German turnip, is a vegetable closely related to the cabbage family. It is a cold-weather vegetable that flourishes from fall through early spring.

Kohlrabi normally has a yellowish-white bulb, that is slightly sweeter than cabbage, with green leaves branching directly from this bulb.

In some cases, though, Kohlrabi can have purple leaves and stem. The crop is mainly grown in Northern Europe and North America.

18.  Celtuce – Lactuca sativa

Celtuce (Lactuca sativa)
Celtuce (Lactuca sativa). Image: Flickr/wagaung

Celtuce is a vegetable of the lettuce family grown for its leaves and thick stem. Celtuce has a stocky white stem that thins upwards and produces many tender green leaves at the end of the stem.

The vegetable is mainly cultivated in China and Taiwan, where it originated, as a main source of nutrients.

Celtuce grows in different soils and prefers cool climates. The vegetable matures quickly and is ready about four to five weeks after planting.

19.  Chard – Beta vulgaris

Chard (Beta vulgaris)
Chard (Beta vulgaris). Image: Wikimedia/Alex

Commonly referred to as Swiss chard, this vegetable closely resembles the beet plant but is grown for its leaves and stalks. You shouldn’t confuse it with rhubarb, either.

Typically, the chard vegetable consists of yellow or scarlet stalks and green leaves, both edible.

The vegetable is cultivated due to its high nutritional content and thrives during the warm weather seasons.

Chard can withstand partial sun but flourishes under full sun and well-drained soil with organic compost.

20.  Amaranth – Amaranthus viridis

Pigweed (Amaranth)
Amaranth (Amaranthus viridis)

Finally, on our list of 20 vegetables is Amaranth, whose botanical name is Amaranthus viridis, which belongs to the Amaranthacaea family.

Amaranth is a short-lived perennial leafy vegetable that’s grown both for its dibble leaves and seeds and for beauty purposes.

Amaranth is grown as a vegetable in various parts of the world, from Asia to America, Europe, and Africa.

Different amaranth varieties display different flowerhead colors ranging from crimson to maroon and even golden glow.

This vegetable can grow up to 2.5 meters tall and blossoms in full sun.

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