Monthly Articles

Stems, roots and rhizomes: Learn your produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be grown at home with relative ease. Home gardening also puts complete control into the hands of individuals who want to know how the foods they eat were grown and treated, providing a greater measure of control over their diets. A sense of pride also comes from having a thriving garden in the backyard.

When gardening at home, gardeners may not know which parts of the plant are edible and which must be discarded. The following rundown can answer those questions and help people become better gardeners.


Certain plants have underground storehouses of nutrients. Tubers are modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. These subterranean caches actually are the edible part of the plant. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, jicama, yams, and Jerusalem artichokes are some examples of tubers.


Taproots seem similar to tubers, but they are actually quite different. While tubers are a modified and engorged part of a stem system, taproots are the central root of a plant. Carrots, radishes, beets, and parsnips are popular examples of taproots.


When munching on a stalk of celery or roasting freshly picked asparagus, people may not realize that it’s the stems of these plants that are being prepared and consumed. The stem enables water and minerals to travel up to the leaves. Rhubarb is another popular stem vegetable.


Sometimes referred to as “greens,” the leaves of many plants can be quite tasty. However, some leaves are simply edible all on their own. Spinach, parsley, chicory, lettuces, kale, arugula, and even dandelion leaves are part of many different salads and recipes. Cabbage heads also are the leaves of the plant, but some people also define these tightly compacted leaves as shoots.

Rhizomes and bulbs

The Spruce defines rhizomes as modified stems that run underground horizontally and strike new roots out of their nodes into the soil. Certain produce, including ginger, arrowroot, ginseng, and turmeric, is often mistaken as a root vegetable, but is actually a rhizome. Bulbs also are mistaken for roots, but are short stems enclosed by layers of fleshy leaves, says the food resource NutriNeat. Garlic, onion, fennel, leeks, and quamash are types of bulbs.

Fruits and flowers

Flowers turn into fruits in many cases, but some flowers are edible as well. Believe it or not, broccoli is a flower bud, as is artichoke and cauliflower. Fruits are more commonly recognized because they are fleshy foods that contain seeds. Tomatoes are fruits and not vegetables.

Learning more about produce can help people diversify their gardens and make for tastier meals.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button