Vegetable Terms

Heirloom: The term heirloom vegetable is used to describe any type of vegetable seed that has been saved and grown over many years and passed down by the gardener who preserved it. These plants are open-pollinated. Seeds, when planted, produce plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant.

Open-Pollinated – Pollination that occurs in an uncontrolled manner by insects, birds, bats, wind, rain, and humans touching the plant or brushing against it. Seeds from that plant result in a new plant that is true to the parent.

Hybrid (F1): A hybrid plant is a result of cross-pollinating two different plant varieties and then collecting and growing the seeds that the plants produce. The plant that grows from that harvested seed is considered a hybrid and is also called an F1 (first-generation hybrid offspring). Because hybrids are a cross between varieties, the seed produced by hybrids will not grow true to seed. Seedlings grown from a hybrid could exhibit traits of one or both parent plants or be something totally surprising. The second disadvantage is that you won’t have much success if you save and try to grow the seeds from the F1 offspring because they tend to lose their vigor. You are a hybrid of both your parents.

GMO: Can be any plant, animal, or microorganism that has been genetically altered using molecular techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and virus genes that do not occur naturally or through traditional crossbreeding methods. You will not find GMO seeds on the seed rack at your local garden center. GMO Seeds are quite expensive and normally used by large farming operations. Did you know? Today, approximately 90 percent of the corn, soybeans, and sugar beets on the market are GMOs.



Indeterminate: (Pole) Vines continue to grow and produce fruit all season until frost. Large vines need support.

Determinate:(Bush) Ripens over 3-4 weeks on bushy vines that usually need little to no staking.

Semi-determinate: Do both- produce a main crop that ripens at once but also continues to produce up until frost.

Slicing: Really big, juicy tomatoes that are thick and sturdy for slicing. They range in size from small (up to 5 oz.), medium (5–8 oz.), and large (over 8 oz.).

Paste: (sauce/Roma/plum) tomatoes are smaller and drier(concentrated flavor) with fewer seeds, making them the right choice for sauces and drying.

Cherry: are bite-sized and come in several shapes, like oblong, pear-shaped, or round.


Scoville (SHU): Pepper pungency is expressed in Scoville Heat Units. The higher the number, the hotter the pepper. The level of “heat” in a pepper fruit results from plant genetics and the environment. A hot pepper will be hotter if grown under stress, such as in hot weather or dry soil. About 80% of a pepper’s capsaicin is located in the seeds and their connecting veins.



Bush: Bush beans are usually determinate with one week or two-week harvest; bush beans are usually planted every ten days to ensure a continuous harvest through summer.

Pole: Pole beans are usually indeterminate, or vining, with a continuous harvest over 6 to 8 weeks if the beans are picked every two days.

String Beans: The original older varieties of snap beans were called “string beans” due to the fibrous string lining the pods, visible when snapped.

Stringless Beans: Newer cultivars have been bred to reduce this string and are called stringless beans.

Snap: The most popular bean type in America, the snap bean or green bean, is eaten pod and all when the seeds are small and immature. The color of the bean can vary. Green beans are green, but other snap beans can be yellow, purple, or speckled, depending on the variety.

Wax: Are yellow-podded snap beans.

Shelling (Dried) Beans: Dried beans are beans that have been dried to preserve them for future use. Among the most popular are navy, black, pinto, and kidney. Green beans, string beans, or soybeans are not considered dry beans.



Bush cucumbers can grow 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) tall and wide, forming a compact plant. Bush cucumbers are well-suited for container growing or small gardens. Plant bush varieties every two weeks for a continuous harvest.

Vine cucumbers can grow to 6 feet (1.8m) high or more and 2 to 3 feet (.6-.9m) wide. Vining cultivars require more space but produce more fruit. Grow vining cucumbers on a fence, trellis, or tripods when possible to keep fruit off the ground.

Pickling cucumbers have thin, pale green skin, bear fruit early, and concentrate fruiting in a 10-day period—pickle cucumbers a few hours after harvesting for crisp pickles.

Slicing cucumbers, for fresh eating, commonly are green-skinned and set fruit for 4 to 6 weeks. Slicing cucumbers include “burpless’ cultivars, which are mild-flavored and easy to digest.

European, English, or greenhouse cucumbers are seedless cultivars developed for greenhouse growing.

Lemon cucumbers are yellow oval-to-round heirloom cucumbers. Lemon cucumbers are ideal for a single serving. Harvest lemon cucumbers just as they turn yellow; do not wait too long or they will be seedy.

Asian cucumbers are thin, heavily ribbed cultivars; the fruit grows from 12- to 24-inches (30-61cm) long.

Gherkin is a term used for any pickling cucumber; however, a true gherkin is not a cucumber but the fruit of a different species, Cucumis anguria.

Cornichons is the generic French term for any small cucumber.

Burpless: are cucumbers bred with no or reduced levels of cucurbitacin. This reduces bitterness and reportedly the likelihood of burping. Have thinner skins and fewer seeds than other cucumber varieties.



Summer Squash: A squash that is eaten before the seeds and rind have hardened. Summer Squash includes crookneck, pattypan, straight-neck, scallop, vegetable marrow, and zucchini.

Winter Squash: A squash that is grown until its shell and seeds are hard and that can be stored for several months. Winter squash includes acorn, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti, and cushaw are among a few.



Crisphead: The most popular type in the United States. It gets its name from how it was transported in crushed ice, where the heads of the lettuce looked like icebergs. Harvest when heads are medium-sized (6 to 8 inches), round, and firm.

Butterhead: Also known as Boston or Bibb lettuce, and traditionally in the UK as “round lettuce,” this type is a head-lettuce with a loose arrangement of leaves, known for its sweet flavor and tender texture. Harvest when the leaves begin to cup inward to form a loose head, or wait until they form a rosette at full size—6 to 8 inches across.

Loose-leaf (leaf): this type has loosely bunched leaves and is the most widely planted. It is used mainly for salads. Harvest when the leaves are large enough to use—just 2 to 3 inches long.

Romaine: Used mainly for salads and sandwiches, this type forms long, upright heads with elongated leaves and thick white ribs. Most often used lettuce in Caesar Salads. Romaine lettuce is also called Cos lettuce. Harvest when the leaves have elongated, formed midribs, and overlapped to form a fairly tight head–about 6 to 8 inches tall.



Muskmelon: An overall term for many types of melon. Muskmelon varieties can have orange, green, golden, or pale yellow to white flesh. They can have ribbed, netted, or smooth skin and a sweet or bland flavor with or without a musky aroma. The most popular type of muskmelon in America is the small, oval, heavily netted kind commonly called a cantaloupe. All cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Honey Dew, Casaba, and Persian types; the large Bender, Montreal, and such odd varieties as the elongated Banana are other types of muskmelons.

Watermelon – The epitome of summertime! Dark and light green striped with sweet and refreshing red or pink flesh.

Yellow Watermelon – Looks like a traditional watermelon but has sweet, yellow flesh inside.

Cantaloupe – Floral, sweet, and juicy with orange flesh and reticulated rind.

Arava -Textured thin netted pale cornflower gold rind and pale glacial green flesh. They have a high sugar content and intense aromatics perfumed with tropical fruit and floral aromatics. They are tender, firm, and incredibly juicy.

Honeydew – Pale green flesh that is sweet and juicy with smooth green to yellow rind.

Ambrosia – A melon hybrid often confused with the cantaloupe, with pale orange flesh that is very sweet, tender, and flavorful.

Santa Claus – Also called a Christmas Melon, it is large with mottled green and yellow striped skin (kind of a camouflage pattern) with light green flesh. Not as sweet as many other melons.

Casaba – Pale to bright yellow with deep ridges with sweet, white flesh.

Crenshaw – Yellow with pink and green tinges on the skin, feel waxy to the touch until very ripe, usually with a bit of a point at the stem end.

Canary – yellow and football-shaped with light green or white flesh, sometimes tinged with pink.



Snap: Have both sweet, edible pods and tender peas so you can enjoy them whole!

Shelling: Grown for the fat, sweet peas that form in the pods (pods are not eaten) that are a staple alongside mashed potatoes.

Snow: Have sweet, edible pods with very small peas inside, typically enjoyed in stir-fries and salads.



Chantenay: Chantenay carrots have short, conical roots that can power through clay and rocky soils better than any other type of carrot. Rather than growing long and slender, they are bulky at the shoulders and taper to a blunt point. They need to be harvested as soon as they size up, or they will turn fibrous and woody, but they have rich flavor and store exceptionally well. Grow 5-6 Inches and can be sown later than other types.

Danvers: These are the classic medium-length carrots with rounded shoulders and pointed ends. They grow to about 6-7 inches long and tolerate heavier and shallower soils than Imperator types. They are known for their deep orange color, excellent flavor, nearly coreless roots, and good storage quality.

Nantes: Nantes carrots have a distinctive, refined look. They are known for being almost perfectly cylindrical and smooth, with nearly the same diameter from end to end and a blunt rather than a pointed tip. They are almost coreless and very fine-grained and sweet, great for juicing and fresh eating. You’ll get the best results with Nantes carrots if you have loose, well-draining garden soil. They grow 6-7 inches long.

Imperator: They have long roots, up to 10 inches long, with high sugar content, and are wonderful for fresh eating. For these carrots to reach their full potential, they must be grown in very loose, deep soil.



Sweet: Has the most sugar; it is the kind we eat and are the most familiar with.

Flour: High in starch; it is ground to make cornmeal and flour.

Flint: Also known as Indian corn, it is very hard and comes in many colors. It is grown for livestock feed and ornamental use. Popcorn is a type of flint corn with small, hard kernels that retain moisture, which, when heated, expand until they explode.

Dent corn: So named because of the dents on the outer-facing edge of the kernel. The kernels are hard, but not as hard as flint corn. It is used for livestock feed and as an ingredient in many commercial foods.

Pod: (tunicate maize) has a husk covering each kernel. It was formally thought to be a wild ancestor corn, although scientists have found its unique form actually to be a genetic mutant.



Long Day: Varieties grow well in the north (above the 37th parallel), requiring 14 to 16 hours of daylight to trigger bulb formation. Intermediate-day varieties overlap the long and short-day ranges a bit and cover the middle of the country (32nd to 42nd parallels). These varieties start the bulbing process when the day length is 12 to 14 hours.

Short Day: Varieties are best sown in fall in the south (below the 35th parallel), for a late winter/early spring harvest. These varieties need 10 to 12 hours of daylight to trigger bulbing. Depending on soil temperature, southern gardeners may choose to sow onion seed directly into the garden. In the north, short-day onions may be grown over the winter in a greenhouse or transplanted out in the spring; this method produces earlier but smaller bulbs.

Bunching: An onion that does not form a well-developed bulb and is grown for its multiple stems of hollow leaves.

Bulbing: An onion that forms a well-developed bulb. Bulbing onions can be harvested at any time, but to get the largest bulbs and longest storage time wait for the tops to fall over and turn yellow or brown.