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How long has man been growing vegetables?

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Vegetables are herbaceous plants, the kind of plant that has a soft stem and little or no woody tissues. The part of the plant that we eat may be a root (beets), a stem (asparagus), leaves (spinach), flower buds (broccoli), a fruit (tomatoes), or seeds (peas).

Early man probably gathered wild pod-bearing plants, such as beans and peas, and root plants, such as carrots. Vegetables such as these and leafy plants such as cabbage and lettuce are believed to have been in the first primitive gardens, though we don't know when such gardens were started.

The ancient Egyptians cultivated lettuce, cabbage, cress, melons, broad beans, radishes, onions, garlic, artichokes, and possibly peas. So thousands of years ago people were already eating quite a variety of vegetables.

The Greeks and Romans later were familiar with all the vegetables the Egyptians used. In addition, they grew cucumbers, asparagus, and celery.

When the explorers went to America, they found vegetables that were completely unknown in Europe. Even the familiar bean was not the same plant in the New World. They found string beans, lima beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and tomatoes. These were all native to the New World and were not grown in Europe until the explorers brought back seeds and tubers. Many of these new vegetables didn't become popular until the nineteenth century.

In the nineteenth century a revolution took place in farming of all kinds. Farmers improved crops by using better farming methods and by selecting only seeds from the best plants for the next year's crop. In this way, vegetables became larger, better tasting, and more nutritious than they had ever been before.

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