The beneficial properties for health of the vegetables that can be cultivated in our gardens are not the only peculiarity that distinguishes this botanical genus.
First of all, the large variety of species of which it is composed, adaptable to the climatic conditions and to the most varied cultivation requirements, allows its cultivation in all periods of the year, including the winter season, allowing us at the same time to obtain excellent products quality even with a minimum expenditure of care and attention. Secondly, the strong or delicate, sweet or bitter taste and the so different colors characteristic of the various species allows us to always give our dishes a touch of exquisite originality. Lastly, we must not overlook the great abundance of particular principles and substances contained in many vegetables, which allows their use in the most diverse fields, from the cosmetic-phytotherapeutic to the antiseptic, to the repellent against insects. Various botanical families are represented in the category of vegetable plants, but those that include the greatest number of species are the Solanaceae, the Umbelliferae, the Cruciferae, the Composite and the Liliaceae.
Including some of the most colorful vegetables rich in vitamins A and C, the Solanaceae family includes very common and easily cultivated species.
the tomato, 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 of green or red berries covered with a smooth and resistant peel. There are numerous varieties that distinguish this vegetable, which we can classify either according to the shape, round, elongated or oval, or based on use, sauce or salad;
the potato, also imported from America, a tuber widely used in the kitchen that 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 the due cooking, a process that allows the starches they contain to break down and make them more digestible;
aubergine, which produces fruit in the form of a berry, large and oval in shape, more or less elongated, purple but also white. It is a plant with a 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;
the pepper, another vegetable originating from South America (Brazil), which arrived in Europe only in the mid-1500s. The pepper plant is a shrub with green and shiny leaves with single white flowers and which produces fruits in fleshy and hollow berries, green to beginning, which then with the maturation become yellow or red.
The family of the Umbelliferae, to which about 3000 species belong for the most part herbaceous, also includes some horticultural plants of great diffusion including:
the carrot, a vegetable with straight and branched stem and pinkish-white flowers, grouped in so-called umbrellas. Although present in different varieties classified according to the color and shape of the root tap root, that is the edible part, the most known is the orange root, rich in vitamin A;
fennel, a plant probably originating from Asia Minor, already known since ancient times and widespread throughout the Mediterranean area. 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 two-year cycle plant native to the Mediterranean area. With a height of 15 to 80 centimeters, the parsley has beautiful bright green leaves, which depending on the variety can be flat or curly. In the kitchen it flavor a great variety of dishes but it must be consumed 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 foliar petioles, stems or ribs are consumed. This vegetable is considered a good depurative, diuretic and valid ally in detoxifying and slimming diets.
Vegetable plants: Cruciferae, Composites and Liliaceae
Of great importance for feeding, given that the marked antioxidant and antitumor activity has been widely demonstrated, the Crucifera family numbers among its species:
the cauliflower, with a roundish appearance and of which the whitish and compact inflorescence is consumed;
The cabbage, composed of thick curly leaves or smooth superimposed on each other in the form of a ball and which is used for the preparation of sauerkraut;
the cabbage, a biennial plant quite resistant to cold, formed by an erect stem and numerous fairly large leaves that form a globose and compact structure;
the broccoli cabbage, another biennial which has a short stem, whitish flowers and intense green inflorescences. It is precisely the latter, when they are not yet ripe, that are used for food purposes.
To the Composite family, which includes about 20,000 species, very common vegetables are included, including:
lettuce, a biennial plant present in many varieties, from the smooth one more common to Roman and Gentile;
radicchio, of a beautiful bright red color, with its characteristic bitter taste and crunchy texture, available in the winter season.
Also the Liliaceae are worthily represented in the vegetable garden by the onion, cultivated since ancient times, by far one of the most common vegetables and garlic, bulb appreciated for its beneficial properties for health.