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Vegetables

Cucumber

The Cucumber has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia, and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.

The cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trellises or other supporting frames, wrapping around ribbing with thin, spiraling tendrils. The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit.

The fruit is roughly cylindrical, elongated, with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Cucumbers grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers) and those intended for pickling (called picklers) are similar. Cucumbers are mainly eaten in the unripe green form. The ripe yellow form normally becomes too bitter and sour.

Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are scientifically classified as fruits. Much like tomatoes and squash, however, their sour-bitter flavor contributes to cucumbers being perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables, which is the accepted culinary term.

Cucumber has various varieties grown across the world.

Capsicum

Capsicum (or pepper in the US, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland) is a genus of plants from the nightshade family (Solanaceae) native to the Americas, where it was cultivated for thousands of years by the people of the tropical Americas, and is now cultivated worldwide. Some of the members of Capsicum are used as spices, vegetables, and medicines. The fruit of Capsicum plants have a variety of names depending on place and type. They are commonly called chilli pepper, red or green pepper, or sweet pepper in Britain, and typically just capsicum in Australian and Indian English. The large mild form is called bell pepper in the US and Canada. They are called paprika in some other countries (although paprika can also refer to the powdered spice made from various capsicum fruit). The original Mexican term, chilli (now chile in Mexico) came from the Nahuatl word chilli or xilli, referring to a larger Capsicum variety cultivated at least since 3000 BC.

Capsicum fruits and peppers can be eaten raw or cooked. Those used in cooking are generally varieties of the C. annuum and C. frutescens species, though a few others are used as well. They are suitable for stuffing with fillings such as cheese, meat or rice.

They are also frequently used both chopped and raw in salads, or cooked in stir-fries or other mixed dishes. They can be sliced into strips and fried, roasted whole or in pieces, or chopped and incorporated into salsas or other sauces.

They can be preserved by drying, pickling or freezing. Dried peppers may be reconstituted whole, or processed into flakes or powders. Pickled or marinated peppers are frequently added to sandwiches or salads. Frozen peppers are used in stews, soups, and salsas. Extracts can be made and incorporated into hot sauces.

Potatoes

The potato is a perennial plant of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family, grown for its starchy tuber. In recent centuries potatoes have become the world's most important tuber crop and its fourth most important source of food energy (after rice, wheat, and maize): farmers and gardeners grow thousands of varities worldwide.

It is believed that the potato plant originally came from the Andes. Archeological evidence suggests that humans have cultivated the potato for at least 7,000 years.

Potatoes' skins come in the colors brown, yellow, pink, red, and purple (sometimes called "blue"). Their flesh may appear white or may reflect the color of the skin. Buds called "eyes" appear on the surface of potato tubers. The market calls small types "fingerlings" or "new" potatoes, larger potatoes may class as "earlies" or "main crop", with the "main crop" referring to varieties that will store well. There are close to 4000 different varieties of potato generally categorized into a few main groups—such as russets, reds, whites, yellows (also called Yukons) and purples—based on common characteristics.

They grow best in cool climates with good rainfall or irrigation, and producers grow them, at least on a small scale, in most temperate regions.

Potatoes have a high carbohydrate content and include protein, minerals (particularly potassium, calcium), and vitamins, including vitamin C. Potatoes offer an excellent source of nutrition.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes come in various sizes and colors and there are hundreds of varieties. They can weigh a fraction of an ounce on the smaller scale and well over 2 pounds on the larger scale. The most common color of a tomato of course is red but they also come in yellow, purple, green and black. They can even come in mixed colors or even stripes. There are numerous varieties of tomatoes based on size, taste, color and other physical features. These include Currant Tomatoes, Grape Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Pear Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Globe Tomatoes and Beefsteak Tomatoes. Whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables is a perennial debate. They are often termed vegetables because of their savory flavor.

Tomato plants typically reach to 1–3 metres (3–10 ft) in height, and have a weak, woody stem that often vines over other plants. The leaves are 10–25 centimetres long, odd pinnate, with 5–9 leaflets on petioles, each leaflet up to 8 centimetres long, with a serrated margin. Both the stem and leaves are densely glandular-hairy. The flowers are 1–2 centimetres across, yellow, with five pointed lobes on the corolla; they are borne in a cyme of 3–12 together. It is a perennial, often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual.

Tomatoes are eaten freely throughout the world in various raw and processed forms. They have great health benefits. They contain lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. Lycopene has also been shown to improve the skin's ability to protect against harmful UV rays. Natural genetic variation in tomatoes and their wild relatives has given a genetic treasure trove of genes that produce lycopene, carotene, anthocyanin, and other antioxidants. Tomato varieties are available with double the normal vitamin C (Doublerich), 40 times normal vitamin A (97L97), high levels of anthocyanin (P20 Blue), and two to four times the normal amount of lycopene (numerous available cultivars with the high crimson gene).

Tomatoes are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The tomato is acidic; this acidity makes tomatoes especially easy to preserve in home canning whole, in pieces, as tomato sauce, or paste. Tomato juice is often canned and sold as a beverage; Unripe green tomatoes can also be breaded and fried, used to make salsa, or pickled. The fruit is also preserved by drying, often by sun, and sold either in bags or in jars in oil.

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