From a UK point of view, it might be a good idea for UK Vegans to consider where in the world certain vegetables originated and how they derived their English vegetable names.
Thus, here follows a short historical list of various vegetable names and their descriptions (no exact dates I’m afraid).
The artichoke, originally a native of Italy, was introduced into England during the reign of Henry VIII., and it is generally believed that the name refers to the part which is not eaten, and which is called* the choke,’ though that is quite a fallacy, as it is merely the English way of spelling its French name, artzchaut, which is explained by old scholars, who say it is a corruption of its Arabic name (alcocalos) from its heads being shaped like a pineapple.
Asparagus was originally a wild sea-coast plant, it is a native of Great Britain, and formerly grew wild in many parts of England and Scotland, but is now to be found all over the world, and is grown more largely in France than in other countries, large quantities being raised among the vines.
Aubergines were introduced late into England and did not become immediately popular for a relatively long time.
The aubergine is a fruit of the egg plant and probably originated in India. It was extremely reviled by the Ancient Greeks but didn’t find its way into England until the 16th century.
The broad bean is said to be a native of Egypt and is supposed to have been brought to England by the Romans.
The priests of Egypt held it a crime even to look at beans; the very sight of them was considered unclean. Pythagoras forbade his disciples to eat beans because they were formed of the rotten ooze out of which man was created. The Romans ate beans at funerals with awe, from the idea that the souls of the dead were in them.
Butter, or wax-pod, beans hail from America,
Their specialty is that the pods are of a lovely golden colour with a semi-transparent appearance, and, if gathered young, are perfectly string less, and should be cooked whole without being sliced at all.
The cultivation of this bean is exactly the same as that of the French and Runner Beans. The best sorts are the Dwarf Golden Butter, the climbing Mont d’Or, and the dwarf German Black Wax.
The dwarf kidney bean was originally a native of India and was introduced to England before the time of the herbalist John Gerard (16th Century).
The scarlet runner bean is a native of South America, and was not introduced to the UK until 1633, when it was first cultivated in flower gardens only as an ornamental plant.
The beetroot was a native of the seacoast in Southern Europe, Mediterranean (sea beets).
Beetroot was introduced into England in 1656.
This vegetable is said to have emanated from Italy and was introduced into England in the 18th Century.
There are now ten or twelve distinct kinds of broccoli at least, but all have sprung from the two kinds originally brought over—the purple and the green.
Sprouts were not introduced into England until the late nineteenth century.
Sprouts were developed from wild cabbage and originated from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
The vegetable was named after the capital of Belgium because they became extremely popular in that soi-disant “country” in the 16th Century.
The cabbage, introduced to England in the 14th century, is in its wild state biennial , and grows naturally on the sea coast in different parts of England, and belongs to the same genus as broccoli, cauliflowers, Scots or German greens, brussels sprouts and savoys, and not only to one genus, but are actual varieties and species of the genus, viz., Brassica oleracea and that the turnip, and Swedish turnip belong to other species of the same genus.
The word ‘cabbage’ means a firm head or ball of folded leaves closely folded over each other.
Known in England as Red pepper or Green pepper or Chilli pepper.
Introduced into England circa. 16th Century.
Carrots were introduced into England in the reign of Elizabeth the First, (1533-1603).
Carrots were so highly esteemed that the ladies wore leaves of it in their headdresses.
Cauliflower is believed to have originated in Asia Minor.
It was in the 16th century that the cauliflower was first introduced into England.
Born in the Americas pre-history, Chilies made their way to Britain from India in the sixteenth Century. It is worth noting that Vasco de Gama, the renowned Portuguese Explorer originally took chillies to India on his travels, at any rate it is really unfortunate to note that there is no definitive birthplace for this popular vegetable (or fruit?).
Allium Genus, chives are related to Garlic and Onion.
The plant is a native of Great Britain, it is perennial, and grows well in any ordinary soil. A light, rich soil suits them best.
There is no authorative history on this plant’s introduction into England.
Cucumber originated from Ancient India in the wild.
Though Wimbledon has created a myth about cucumber sandwiches being “awfully English” the actual cucumber’s history and consumption is more to the taste of our American cousins, because (we suspect) of its innate blandness and lack of versatility), and not at all to indulge the more exotic taste of the “English palate” .
Endive originally came from China and Japan (not Thailand) and was known in England before 1548.
It is most easily produced on freely manured light soils, and nothing is so good for it as growth in the soil cleared of early potatoes.
It is an unremarkable vegetable.
Fennel is a wondrous herb and dates back to Pliny in England.
It is often cited as a pure medicine often used in various treatments for certain injuries or maladies.
By all accounts this is a wonderful herb.
This most overrated of herbs is a native of Asia which found its way into Egypt, India and China.
It was introduced into Europe during the crusades and thence the Portuguese took the aromatic herb into the Americas.
Because of the pungent smell of garlic, it is one of the few foods which the English Royal Family has banned from entering the Royal palate in any form.
End of part I.
In the next part we will continue our exploration of the origins of UK vegetables. In the meantime let it be known to all vegans that it is essential for Vegans to educate themselves to become extremely knowledgeable about the history of vegetables (and their requisite functions), just like an experienced gardener would be expected to know the Latin names of all flowers and their subsequent history, so should Vegans be able to articulate the history and functions of most UK vegetables .
It is a sine qua non for all vegans.
At any rate, in the next part, we shall continue describing the history of vegetables.
As a P.S. do not forget that a new Vegan political party has just been formed (UK Vegan Party), if you are interested in being an officer, contributor, administrator, or have ideas on the party’s constitution then please send an email to: