On 2/13/2018 1:33 PM, David Inouye wrote:

It seems plants grown for food are typically picked for one part of the plant: buds (cauliflower), flowers (squash), leaves (lettuce), bulbs (onions), roots (beets), seeds (chocolate), or fruits. Is there a species that covers four or more categories? Maybe squash/pumpkin (flower, fruit, seeds) comes close?


 **********

Some people asked why I asked this question. I was reviewing a draft poster promoting pollinators that had a section about the benefits to humans provided by the plants dependent on pollinators. It included a stylized plant highlighting a tuber, fruit, seeds, and leaves, and it occurred to me to wonder how many of those categories a single real plant might include. Nobody mentioned nectar, either in the form of honey or floral nectar itself (how many others have sucked the nectar out of honeysuckle flowers?), but one or two did think of pollen.

Thanks to the 40+ people who provided interesting responses (mostly directly to me), which are summarized below.

 David

********************************

Interesting question.

Perhaps moringa? I think the bark, seeds, leaves, flowers, and fruit are edible: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/amazing-moringa-medicinal-edible-easy-grow

 ********************************

Fennel (bulb, leaves, seeds)

 ********************************

How about the cultivars of Brassica oleracea? Or is that cheating?

********************************

Would you count Brassica oleracea?

flower buds (cauliflower, broccoli)

lateral shoots (Brussels sprouts)

leaves (collards, some kale)

neotenic stem/leaves (cabbage)
Stem (kohlrabi)

********************************

You can also eat squash/pumpkin leaves https://www.theafricanchef.com/products/pumpkin-leaves.


********************************

Dandelions, though not typically considered a crop, are entirely edible. The roots can be roasted for a coffee substitute, the leaves are sold in many health food stores nowadays as greens, the flowers can be fried, and the petals can be used to make wine.

********************************

Your hunch of squash/pumpkin is a good one. I've known quite a few Japanese folks who enjoy eating the leaf (usually in miso soup). Another good candidate would be Lotus which is harvested for the roots, leaves, flowers (ornamentally), fruit (ornamentally), and seeds. Radish/turnip/daikon as well, where essentially the entire plant is edible and commonly used for food (roots, leaves, flowers, seeds). I could probably think up a few more if you would like.

********************************

Plants I am pretty sure you can eat all of: Beets, turnips, ratishes, onions, garlic, yams/sweet potato, lettuce, wheat?, ... probably a lot of plants we don't think of eating the whole thing are actually entirely edible.
Look forward to additions to this list!

********************************

Fun question

Celery comes to mind.

Root, stems (technically a petiole), leaves (used as greens/herbs), and seeds

I believe that there are different varieties domesticated for the above ground and below ground parts.

I thought Brassica oleracea, but only got three parts: leaves (many examples), stem (kohlrabi), buds (broccoli)

Brassica rapa is also three with a number of leaves, rape seed for oil, and turnips

If you broaden your use of the plant beyond direct consumption your list grows.

Apples and pecans are eaten, but their woods are valued for adding flavor through smoke


********************************

Pea plants?Shoots, pods, peas are eaten.

********************************

How about cilantro / coriander? Seeds (spice); leaves and stalks; and roots 
(used in Asian soups).

********************************

I think squash/pumpkin definitely meet your criteria of four or more categories. Several of my Nepalese colleagues have mentioned that the leaves of squash and pumpkin plants are delicious.

********************************

The greens from turnips and beets are often eaten.

********************************

Great question! In a few minutes thinking, the max I can get to is 3: Sunflower (buds, seeds, rhizomes). Dandelions also hit 3 (flowers, leaves, roots). I would guess some indigenous societies have plants for which they have developed uses for many parts.

********************************

Garlic? Root, greens (sort of), scapes (which are the flowers), and seed. I don't know if the bulb/clove of garlic is a root or a stem though. Credit to my wife for thinking of this one.

********************************

Fennel?

********************************

In fact, leaves of pumpkin are also edible and pretty delicious too.

 ********************************

Evidently garlic roots are edible, and the bulb/clove is part of the stem. So 5 parts for /Allium sativum./

********************************

Moringa oleifera may fit the bill. Not as widely cultivated as the above examples, but nonetheless many parts can be/are used.

********************************

Brassica oleracea comes pretty close Floral buds - cauliflower; stems and 
floral buds - broccoli, lateral meristems (buds) - brussels sprouts, stem, 
Kohlrabi, unexpanded stem - cabbage

But these are not the same "plant" that provides them, just the same species 
bred to emphasize production of a particular part.

 ********************************

For both turnips and carrots, we eat both the root and the 'greens'.  I surely can't think of anything with 4 or more categories!

********************************

Brassica oleracea! cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli, 
cauliflower, and many others are all the same species.

https://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/8/6/5974989/kale-cauliflower-cabbage-broccoli-same-plant

 ********************************

Fennel. The whole plant is used for eating.

********************************

All parts of the cattail are edible (tender shoots, rhizome, roots, pollen, green flower spikes, seeds), clover (tender shoots, flower, seeds, roots (when cooked)), dandelion (roots, shoots, leaves, flowers (though I've never liked the taste)), miner's lettuce (leaves, stem, roots, flowers). I'm from the Pacific Northwest and have eaten all of these plants at least once, and were once common food items. There are others such as fireweed, arrow-leaved balsam, and arrowhead that I haven't yet tried that are reported to be entirely or almost entirely edible. If you're wanting more conventional vegetables, then onions also come close, as the bulbs, young leaves (scallions), and flowers are all edible. There are other vegetables like celery, parsley, and carrots where the entire plant is edible. Also, young squash leaves are edible, as are bean leaves and flowers.

********************************

In fact, leaves of pumpkin are also edible and pretty delicious. They are pretty popular in many parts of South East Asia.

********************************

Neat question!

 Fennel is the one that first comes to mind. Seed, leaves, and stem ('bulb') all commonly eaten in different ways. Flowers of wild varieties are eaten and apparently referred to as 'fennel pollen' (though I've also put cultivated fennel flowers in salad many times). And some varieties apparently produce a more substantial root that it seems is sometimes peeled and cooked?

 ********************************

I think some cacti  as well as Typha species do! I've been doing some ethnobotanical research in the Sonoran Desert and if you look at the book Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert, there's an appendix of plant parts used for each species. Typha domingensis and Typha latifolia are noted as being used for their fruits, stems, roots, flowers, seeds. Also, certain cacti like Ferocactus sp. I was surprised by the Typha species!

 ********************************

Garlic? The scapes include flower buds and part of the stem (and are delicious).

 ********************************

Celery (/Apium graveolens/) may fit into the category of being grown for four or more (edible) categories.  We eat the roots (celeriac), stalk, leaves, and seeds.   However, it is true that different cultivars of the species are grown for some of these.

********************************

Marijuana?

Pollen is harvested, as is sap.Remember that it’s also a fiber crop.

 ********************************

Hmm... almonds maybe? We use different parts of the plants for different things, but pollen (honey), seeds, and wood (firewood) all get used in California. That's three categories.

********************************

brassica!

********************************

I'd expand this somewhat to think about fiber as well. Things like corn leaves are used for tamales; banana leaves for rain covering. Many gourds are used as containers in their own right, which is another interesting use.

Saguaro is an interesting example. The ribs are used in construction (lathework) or for shade structures, as well as to harvest the fruits. Fruits are eaten and fermented, and seeds are eaten separately. So that's three right there, and not from a plant family that's commonly thought of as a food plant.

If you consider that most of the brassicas are essentially monospecific, but express in a wide variety of ways (broccoli, kale, radish, bok choy, cabbage, mustard, etc). Of those plants, we eat various parts depending on the crop.

Interesting question.

********************************

I few google clicks led me to hemp foods (seeds, oil) and hemp skin cream.The 
fiber use is very wide — from paper and cloth to “engineered” flooring (my 
impression is engineered here means plastic added) and in non-structural 
concrete.Think of the possibilities for incorporation of the oil from THC 
producing strains into food.Snack foods that make you want to eat more snack 
foods!A corporation’s dream food product — one that enhances hunger rather than 
satiates it.

 ********************************

Hmmm, interesting question.

After trying to think of "exotic" plants where multiple uses might occur, such 
as amaranths (seed and potherb), grape (fruit and leaves -- at least in the Med Basin), 
the setting sun on the crop stubble outside my office window shed some light on the topic.

Corn, of course! The grain is used, obviously, but also the cob (as grit for 
sand blasting and cellulosic ethanol production), the husks are used as 
wrappers in Mexican cuisine, immature plants are used as silage for cattle, and 
dead stalks and leaves are used for fodder, bedding, and cellulosic ethanol 
production.

That's the best I can do.

[Maybe*/huitlacoche /(smut fungus) should be added – David]*

********************************

This is a great question! I think about this type of stuff a lot as an avid cook, gardener, and botanist. Here's what I could come up with:

Celery: root, stalks, seeds, and leaves (taken off the stalk and used for their strong flavor).

Fennel: bulb, leaves, seeds, and pollen.

Cilantro: leaves, seeds (coriander), roots (frequently used in Thai cooking), and flowers (specialty garnish mostly used in gourmet applications).

The only caveat to celery and cilantro is that those two plants are typically not cultivated for the expressed purpose of selling all four of those components separately. People tend to use them opportunistically (i.e. I like to buy celery bunches with lots of leaves still attached because I know I like the flavor, but I'm not sure one would be able to find a bag of celery leaves at a store). I think fennel is the only item on this list for which there exists an established market for all four of the listed items.

********************************

The banana/plantain "tree" - stem, flowers, ripe and unripe fruits, leaves - all of these are used' the former three as food, and the last as disposable packaging and to eat food on.

********************************

Technically, speaking Brassica oleracea includes a lot of different vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, etc.  So in that case, so are eating buds, leaves, stems, flowers, and almost all parts.  I am not sure about roots.  But there you have it for 4 or more categories!

********************************

All we need to do is to turn to Asian and other non-western cuisines to find so many creative uses of most plant parts. You mentioned pumpkins, and I have enjoyed pumpkin leaves (including petioles) that have been deliciously stir-fried on my visits to China. So there is a plant with at least 4 edible parts (flower, fruit, seed, leaves). Who knows - maybe even the roots are edible?

You can find many pumpkin leaf recipes on the internet.

********************************

Dandelions, although not usually thought of as a food plant, are entirely edible and each part of the plant can be used differently.

********************************

While beets and other root vegetables are grown for their roots, the shoots are also edible. I think this is the case for beets, radishes, carrots, burdock, parsnip, and parsley.

********************************

Here's a table that lists primary and secondary uses of common vegetables.Sweet 
corn has four listed uses:

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/hortupdate_archives/2005/may05/SecVeget.html

My own suggestion would be manioc, mainly because the roots provide a staple 
food and, along the way, give us tapioca.Not quite four uses, but it's a really 
interesting process to watch.Also physically demanding, as I learned when I 
tried to help out.

********************************

What a great challenge.

How about mustard (Brassica juncea)?

Seeds: oil (canola oil) and mustard condiment

Leaves: mustard greens

Root: specialty root vegetable 
(see:http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Mustard_Roots_10024.php)

Stem: used to make a pickle in Nepal and China (!) 
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica_juncea)

--
Dr. David W. Inouye
Professor Emeritus
Department of Biology
University of Maryland

Principal Investigator
Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

Reply via email to