Why Do Plants Produce Fruit and Vegetables?


Have you ever wondered why plants grow fruits and vegetables? Was their purpose to grow food for omnivores and other fruit-eating animals? Why do plants exert so much energy to produce such delicious goods only to be eaten by potential predators?

Plants produce fruits and vegetables as a way to protect and spread their seeds away from other competing plants. Animals that eat these fruits actually help the plant’s survival by traveling distances and excreting their seeds.

It is probably safe to assume that you have eaten a fruit or vegetable at least once and that this thought of where they grew from and why has crossed your mind also, at least once! Keep reading on to learn a little bit more about why plants produce fruits and vegetables.

The Science of Why Plants Produce Fruit and Vegetables

The science behind why plants produce fruits and vegetables is one that will make you thankful that plants operate the way they do! The process of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable is pretty straightforward – in order to protect their seeds and pass them on to further reproduce and grow more fruits and vegetables, plants go through a process of encasing their seeds inside edible layers of what we can call food.

This process of seed protection by encasing their seeds is actually one that is built into their plant DNA and is the leading function for fruit and vegetable-producing plants. Not only is this done for protection, but this is also done as a means of attraction to the fruit or vegetable that it creates.

How Do Plants Spread the Seeds That Are in the Fruit and Vegetables?

The plant is banking on the fact that this beautiful, scent-filled fruit or vegetable will want to be eaten by animals. When the animal eats the fruit or vegetable it will also consume the seeds which will more or less be protected during the digestion process.

Once the animal has digested this fruit or vegetable, it will then excrete it out wherever the animal came from and in the most non-magical way – fertilize the seed in a location away from the original plant it blossomed from. Science is cool, kids!

The turtle plays an important role in seed dispersal for tomatoes

Generally, when we are eating a fruit or vegetable, we are actually eating the plant’s hard labor of protecting seeds that are meant to be passed on to continue to populate the land they are on. It shouldn’t bum you out that we eat their offspring!

It is a beautiful aspect of life sustainment and we get to benefit from it in really big ways. Not to mention the animal above that clearly played a big role in transporting the plant’s fruit or vegetable seeds off into far-off lands where we humans eventually found and began to cultivate.

We (us humans) didn’t always have the ability to grow and replicate fruits and vegetables. This is a fairly recent phenomenon that we are benefiting from and the process of cultivation and crop farming is still new and ever-changing! So, who were the first people to grow plants that produced fruits and vegetables?

Where Did the First Plant Grow Under Human Supervision?

Roughly 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, now the valleys of Iraq and Iran, humans experimented with certain wild-growing plants that they found to be producing safe, edible growths. Over time they, early farmers, used this to their advantage and harnessed the wild-growing plants. These were the very first people to practice cultivating and planting to yield a food crop that supported their very small diet of the time.

Listed below are the early plants that were farmed by those in the Fertile Crescent.

  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Barley
  • Flax
  • Wheat

Hopefully, by now your curiosity has really peaked, and you are wondering, no dying, to know what kinds of plants produce fruit and vegetables or maybe you’re wondering about some of the more common types of plants that we are all familiar with and use in our daily lives. Keep reading on to learn about some common vegetables and fruits that come from plants.

Which Common Plants Produce Fruit and Vegetables?

Generally, we will come into contact with basic fruits and vegetables throughout our lives whether that is at a supermarket, a garden center, a farmer’s market, or even if you grow your own at home.

These common fruit and vegetable growing plants are SO common that maybe while strolling through your local garden center, you saw that there was a sale on an already blooming tomato plant.

From that encounter, you had a chance to see a tomato growing on a vine. That plant is pulling overtime work to get that delicious tomato matured, ready to eat, into your hands and all without breaking a sweat!

Plants Produce Fruits and Vegetables Worldwide

Do you know how many plants there are in the world that produce fruits and vegetables?

There are over 1,097 species of vegetable plants and over 2000 types of fruit plant species that have been identified in the world. Globally, many of the plants that produce fruits and vegetables are common, everyday plants that can be bought and grown at home.

Out of those thousands of species of plants, humans only use less than 10% of both fruits and vegetable species that are known to man. How wild is that!

What is even wilder is that like the tomato plant you walked past at your local garden center, you can easily purchase any of the common fruit and vegetable plants to grow yourself in your own home. Accessibility and sustainability when it comes to fruits and vegetables have become easier and a popular option amongst many. So, which common fruits and vegetables that grow from plants do we humans regularly plant and consume?

Common Fruit and Vegetable Producing Plants by Global Popularity

There clearly are thousands of plants that produce fruit and vegetables, but there are some common and recognizable ones that are grown globally that you can find in the table below.

NameFruit or Vegetable?Global Production (million metric tons)Best Season to Grow
TomatoesVegetable177.04March to April
OnionsVegetable93.17October to May
Cucumber (Gherkin)Vegetable71.26April to July
CabbageVegetable71.26August to April
BananaFruit119.83October to March
WatermelonFruit101.62May to August
ApplesFruit86.44March to July
GrapesFruit78.04November to August

Globally, the plants listed above are the biggest in crop production and in human consumption!

The need to protect and continue to cultivate the plants that we eat and nourish us is vital not just for the plant to continue producing but given the vast quantity at which the plants can produce (as seen above) brings home the fact that plants which produce fruits and vegetables play a big role in our lives.

Protecting Future Generations of Fruits and Vegetables!

The world of plants is vast and full of very interesting, unique fruit and vegetable producing plants. The unique DNA composition that allows them to produce fruits and vegetables coupled with our ability to now grow our own in our home if we wanted is remarkable, to say the least.

The next time you pick up a piece of fruit or cook with your favorite vegetable, give it a brief thought and consider how it came to be with you and the plant it came from. Plants will always play a vital part in human existence and the fruit and vegetable-producing plants will always be looking out for us as they continue to produce the food we love and rely on.

Citations

Npr.org
Plantophiles.com
Worldatlas.com
Statista.com
Biodiversityinternational.org
fruitsinfo.com

Image Credits

jonnysek
photovectorino

AskthePlantician

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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