Thursday, August 14, 2008

the big list of vegetables

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I feel shame when I do a post that's mostly just listing "they say this, we say that". There are plenty of sites around that do that kind of straight word-for-word listing. But I get enough requests for vegetable names that I'm just going to try to get it over with right now. Where there are links, that's because I've already written about some of these at greater length elsewhere. I've also already written about veg/veggie and various herbs (and the pronunciation thereof). So please click on those links to discuss those issues in greater detail.

And now, the list (which has no particular order):

BrEAmE
aubergineeggplant
courgettezucchini
rocket (sometimes roquette)arugula
mange toutsnow peas/sugar peas
spring oniongreen onion/scallion
swederutabaga
beetroot (treated as a mass noun)beet (count noun)
sweetcorncorn
chicoryBelgian endive
pepper (sweet pepper if it's not green; one occasionally hears the AusE capsicum)
(bell) pepper


chick-peachickpea/garbanzo bean
haricot beannavy bean
broad beanfava bean
runner beanstring bean
cos lettuceromaine lettuce

In addition, some names for groups of vegetables are different. BrE pulses = AmE legumes (though, technically, legume is a broader category). In AmE I'd refer to cruciferous vegetables, meaning broccoli and cauliflower collectively, but in BrE I hear Brassica, the Latin name of the family (which includes cabbage and Brussels sprouts).

Squash are another matter. One easily finds acorn and butternut squash (and courgettes/zucchini) in both countries, but otherwise the varieties of squash tend to be different. Marrows will be known to fans of Wallace and Grommit, but the term is not much used in the US. It refers to "any of various kinds of squash or gourd which are chiefly the fruits of varieties of Cucurbita pepo, eaten as a vegetable; esp. one of the larger round or cylindrical kinds with green, white, or striped skins and greenish-white or (occas.) yellowish pulpy flesh" (OED June 2008 draft rev.), so courgettes/zucchinis are technically small marrows. In the UK I've never seen what we call summer squash* (aka yellow squash--is this a regional difference? Not sure) or spaghetti squash (which was something of a fad in the US in the 1970s, I think, but I haven't seen it lately). The OED lists pattypan (squash) as 'chiefly N. Amer.', but I've only seen it for sale in the UK and South Africa. Pumpkin is generally only used of the orange-rinded variety (for making jack o'lanterns) in AmE, but in BrE the term applies more generally to gourd-y squashes with orange flesh. (Jack-0-lantern pumpkins have become more available in the UK as Halloween celebrations have become more popular.)

The British talk about more kinds of shelled peas (garden peas, petits-pois [for younger, sweeter peas]) than Americans do. (Click on the link for the mushy variety.)

As can be seen in the examples presented here, BrE tends to be more influenced by French and AmE shows some Italian influence, which is not surprising since Britain has a lot of contact with France and its cuisine, and popular cuisine in the US has been greatly affected by Italian (and other) immigrants. Those who read Menu Italian may not recogni{s/z}e arugula for Italian rucola, but arugula was the dialectal version of the word that immigrated to America. (Just as rutabaga is not the general Swedish word for that kind of turnip, but a dialectal term for it. Click on the link above for more on that.)

I await the first comment that points out a completely obvious one that I've left off the list!

*Summer squash for me has two meanings. Either the general term that refers to any thin-skinned squash, or the specific one that refers to yellow squash that are picked at the same time as courgettes/zucchini.

79 comments:

battlekow said...

Actually, Brassica is a genus, not a family. Its most famous species is probably B. oleracea, which is broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and more--all the same species!

Anonymous said...

Guessing what's been left off the list: Butter Beans, Lima Beans, Okra, Black-Eyed Peas, Collard Greens.

(Pete Moor)

itinerantlondoner said...

I've noticed increasingly in the UK that Spring Onions are beginning to be called 'salad onions' instead.

Also, rather confusingly, what we call a swede in England is often called a turnip in Scottish & Irish English. Whereas a turnip (while related to a swede) is a different vegetable in British English. What's a turnip called in the US?

ephant said...

I find it interesting to contrast this list with Australian English... Apart from the already mentioned Capsicum, I use either the BrE or AmE word but there doesn't seem to be too much of a pattern....

I know Eggplant and Zucchini, but Rocket/Roquette and Snow Peas. Spring Onions and Swede (But I know that Swede & Turnip have names that swap around in different countries... what I call swede has yellowish flesh wheras Turnip has white flesh), Beetroot, Corn, chickpeas, navy beans, broad beans & cos lettuce.

BlueBottle said...

@itinerantlondoner: Swedes are/were called turnips in North East England, too. In the (quite recent, it seems to me) past, when vegetables were only available seasonally and were mostly grown not far away, there wasn't any confusion, since we only had the Swedish turnip to buy. Now, with national chains providing the same produce year round, shops appear to have standardised on Southern English usage. Older civilians like me still often call "swedes" "turnips", though.

Anonymous said...

I always think of food name differences (especially names of fish) as a very different sort of language difference from the ones you normally talk about here. Food names tend to be very regional, even between people who would not consider themselves as speaking different variants of the language.

This is noticeable in other languages too: I am sure I have noticed that French names for fish are sometimes different between the north and the south of the country.

Mrs Redboots said...

My husband, who is from Northern Ireland, calls them "scallions", and hadn't known the term "spring onions" until he met me.

Two minor points - Cos and Romaine lettuce are two different varieties over here (UK); if you go into your local Tesco, you'll probably see both of them on sale. Also, you can get both mangetout and sugar snap peas here - the latter tend to be slightly more developed than the mangetout, which I think are sometimes called "peapods" in AmE, no?

What is a Lima bean? I thought they were our broad beans.

Anonymous said...

If chicory correlates to endive, what's the Br word for chicory (the coffee-like drink from Southern US)?

biochemist said...

What about 'green beans' (AmE)? They look like BrE 'French beans' which are slender pods, unlike the coarse flat pods of runner beans.

Soy beans have been a recent revelation in the frozen food section: roundish beans, smaller than broad beans and less floury in texture - how big are the pods and do we ever get them in that form in the UK?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but interesting (I hope): German shows similar vegetal variation between Germany and Austria. (I can't speak for Switzerland.) Aubergine (G)/Melanzani (A)--where clearly the Austrian word was imported from Italy and the German from France; grüne Bohnen (G)/Fiesolen (A), etc.

Then (in Vienna at least) there are the "asparagus" vegetables--Spargelfiesolen for wax beans, Spargelkohl for broccoli--as though the exoticism was somehow communicated by appending "asparagus" to a common word.

String said...

My [BrE] BH tells me that spaghetti squash is occasionally available here in the UK, but I can't say that I've seen it. When we last lived in the US (1999 through 2004), we bought it quite frequently, so it's definitely still common there (in season).

mollymooly said...

So many vegetables, so few fruits!

In Ireland:

Mangetout, sugarsnap peas, and snowpeas are slightly different from each other.

Swede/rutabaga is turnip; England's turnip is called white turnip. Though restaurant serve "swede". (Well, carvery lunches do; fancy places serve
neither.)

"Scallion" is giving way to "spring onion", though Carlow people are still nicknamed "scallion-eaters".

TChem said...

Ah, a fun topic. I have a book called "The Produce Bible" that I only realized was English once I got home. In addition to the vocabulary differences, there were additions and omissions which would never have happened in a North American cookbook--no listing for cranberries, but a listing for gooseberries which I'd never even heard of. If they hadn't been labeled I would have assumed they were grapes!

itinerant londoner: USians use the word "turnip", though from what you're saying I'm not sure that your turnip is the same as ours! I'm not enough of a fan to have paid much attention, but it's sort of an off-white color when cooked. I mistook it for mashed potatoes once or twice as a child at Thanksgiving. I've seen raw swedes/rutabagas around, but would have no idea what to do with one.

Biochemist: you might be able to find soybeans in the pod with the name "edamame", which I think is the Japanese word, but a commonish way of referring to the raw product in the US. The pods are about the size of peas that you remove the pod from ("shell peas" in my New England dialect). Like shell peas the pods aren't edible, but unlike shell peas, they're commonly cooked in the pod and eaten by putting the pod up to your mouth and squeezing in the beans (which sounds gross, but I like them). The edamame pods are also fuzzy, a bit like a peach, which turns off some people.

BlueBottle said...

"If chicory correlates to endive, what's the Br word for chicory (the coffee-like drink from Southern US)?

Well, we don't have the drink, and so don't have a name for it. But I expect we'd call it Chicory, since I suspect it's made with Cichorium intybus, Belgian Endive, which we call chicory, and which apparently also goes by the name “coffeeweed”. It's an ingredient in Camp Coffee, for instance.

You may be thinking of Curly Endive, which is a different plant (called frissee in the UK).

biochemist said...

Thanks, tchem - I think I have eaten small edamame pods once, didn't connect them with soya beans as they were a salty starter in a restaurant!

Have you eaten rhubarb - a sweet stem that may be in your book under 'fruit' (although of course it isn't a fruit)? Many years ago I joyfully bought some that I had found in a branch of Kroger's in Detroit - then discovered at the checkout that it was categorised as 'exotic' although in the UK home-growers are always pressing you to take some away with you in the summer.

jhm said...

Isn't "haricot bean" redundant?

There are "English cucumbers" which are much less common in the US. Are these the default cuke in the Uk? Do you say cuke?

I also encountered "English peas" at a US, grocery store, in my native New England. As far as I could tell they were shelling peas, of no particular petiteness.

Theo said...

Here in Berkeley, CA, USA, the words "green onion", "spring onion", and "scallion" all refer to different alliums. But we have a heightened food culture: Alice Waters is the local demigod.

TChem said...

biochemist: Funny, I wouldn't think of rhubarb as an "exotic" either-- it's not as common as apples, but we had some in my backyard growing up that got huge without any help, so it's not exactly a delicate tropical plant.

It's usually baked with strawberries in pie or muffins in the US, but my little sister likes to dip the raw end of a stick in sugar and crunch on it that way (I think that's mostly a chance to eat straight sugar, though).

lynneguist said...

OK, many responses coming:

First, please let's leave fruits for another post! (Gooseberries have come up already--search the blog for those.)

battlekow--thanks, you might want to correct that on Wikipedia, where I looked to see if it was a family, genus, etc.

anon1--you've identified a lot of veg that are not so common outside certain parts of the US. Okra is also known as ladyfingers in the UK (most common in Indian cuisine in the UK), and I've read that collard greens = spring greens, but don't know if they're exactly the same (have never seen 'spring greens' in the UK).

itinerant, swedes/rutabagas are a certain kind of turnip, but if one just says turnip in southern England/the US, we both mean 'white turnip'.

mrs redboots, I've never seen peapod used to refer to an edible pod, but perhaps that's regional. Better Half says that lima beans are lima beans in BrE, but I've never seen them in the UK, so perhaps that's why the name's not known. AmE butter bean is close to a lima bean, but in some dialects it's a slightly different thing.

biochemist, I left off French bean because I shop at Waitrose, where they're packaged as green beans! So, I've seen 'French bean' on lists of BrE vegetable terms, but I've seen 'green bean' more often. Another one is AmE wax bean, which is a yellow bean like the green bean, but I've never seen this bean in the UK.

jhm, indeed, the relatively seedless English cucumber is the typical cucumber found in England. (American cucumbers have big, sloppy seedy insides--the seeds are sometimes scooped out before serving for neatness's sake, but they're perfectly edible.) Cuke is an Americanism. (I had a funny cuke interaction once, but now can't remember exactly what happened!)

I think that's all I need to respond to now. Thanks to others who've answered many of the questions here!

Mrs Redboots said...

String, I don't think you can buy spaghetti squash in the shops (at least, I've not seen it), but it's certainly grown in people's gardens. My sister grew some last year.

Come to think of it, my (NIE) husband calls swedes "turnips", and didn't know the white kind before we married. Mind you, he calls drop scones "pancakes" and didn't know there were any other sort of pancakes, but let's not go there right now....

Lynneguist, spring greens have been on sale in our Tesco's for the past few weeks - like a kind of cabbage with no heart, very tough, quite a strong flavour. I only quite like them.

Zhoen said...

If rhubarb is 'exotic' then that rhubarb I ate out of the backyard garden growing up in Detroit must've been a real rarity, which I doubt. I loved it straight and sour.

In Utah, the smaller, (but not grape or cherry) tomatoes are called Roma, but in Boston they were called plumb tomatoes. So, what do they call those in Britain?

lynneguist said...

Zhoen, they're called 'plum tomatoes' in BrE. (I presume that's what they're called in Boston too?)

flatlander said...

The edible pods are usually called "snow peas" in the grocery stores and Chinese menus here (mid-Atlantic U.S.), but my mother always calls them "peapods" (she grew up in Texas).

disgruntled said...

Latin plant family names almost always end in 'aceae' - there are a few historical exceptions - so the cabbage family is 'Brassicaceae' (or Cruciferae if you're old school)

And talking of turnips & pumpkins, at school in Scotland we used to carve our jack o'lanterns out of turnips (probably actually swedes) - a lot harder work than a pumpkin.

Anne T. said...

Sometimes green beans in cans are cut French-style.

I'm curious about kidney beans. Is this what they're called in England too?

A story about collard greens: When I went to Maryland to school (college) and ate in the dining hall, the waitstaff in the cafeteria was all African American. I asked to be served some collards and was very pointedly corrected, "you mean greens?"

Collard greens are traditional soul food, and thought maybe what was going on was that the server was objecting to these being called "collard" because it was too close to "colored", but I'm not sure. Or maybe I was reading too much into the situation and it was a regional/cultural thing. Maybe collard greens were just called plain "greens" and not distinguished from mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, etc.

anne t. said...

How about russet/red potatoes or purple/red onions, sweet potatoes or yams (different things), or avocadoes/alligator pears - or are these last a fruit? Is this what they are called in Britain as well?

mollymooly said...

In Britain "greens" is any vegetable, or any green vegetable, or any leafy vegetable.

"Roma tomatoes" is used in Australia too.

Morgan said...

Seconding mrs redboots' comment about collard greens-- being an American Southerner recently transplanted in London it took me not an inconsiderable amount of time looking for collards to find them labeled as 'spring greens'. Which is what I might call a mixed bag of salad vegetables.

If you find them a bit tough, cook them the Southern way!

lynneguist said...

If I didn't list a common vegetable, then it's probably because it's called the same thing in BrE and AmE. So, kidney beans, potatoes, etc.: all the same. (Though I've never heard 'alligator pear', which I take is a US regional term for avocado.)

Vegetable cultivars (e.g. Russet potatoes) are very often different in the two countries. People grow what grows well in their location, or eat imports that suit their home country and ship well, and they prefer cultivars that suit the cuisines and tastes of their locales. So, you don't tend to get Russet potatoes in the UK, nor King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes in America. (etc.)

Lindenwood said...

Pumpkins are a funny one. In Australia, you can get them all year round and you actually eat them, not carve them! The most common variety is greeny-grey (I think it's called a Queensland Blue). We even call butternut squash [i]butternut pumpkin[/i].

Growing up, green beans were just beans to us. I wonder if that has changed since other types of beans (kidney beans etc) have become more popular in Australian cuisine? Funnily enough, after 4 years living in the USA, I now call them green beans and don't think I will ever get out of the habit.

ephant said...

Lindenwood:

Queensland Blue aren't a common pumpkin there, the two main ones we eat in Melbourne these days are Butternut and Jap (Japanese Pumpkin - round with dark green skin).
I had no idea that Butternut Pumpkin was called squash elsewhere - how bizarre. Squash, to me, only refers to small yellow things... the internet tells me that this is "summer squash".

"beans" mean green beans, unless it doesn't. When discussing what to cook for dinner my housemate said "Maybe something with beans?" which could have been ambiguous, but I knew exactly what he meant. We currently have lots of dried navy beans and borlotti beans.

kiwianna said...

In NZ "pumpkin" is used as a collective term for what I would have called "winter squash" or just plain "squash" growing up in the US.

The variety is seldom noted at the stores where I shop, so I don't know what the locals call them, but the most common varieties sold in Christchurch are (in AmE and declining order of abundance): Butternut, buttercup, kabocha and acorn.

My partner's British co-workers apparently use 'pumpkin' to refer exclusively to the raw material for jack-o-lanterns and refused to believe that edible orange-rinded, orange-fleshed squash existed.

Is this highly restricted use of "pumpkin" as regional thing, or an idiosyncrasy of a few (post-)grad students?

Alan Walker said...

In Melbourne, we say silverbeet or silver beet for the leafy vegetable (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) known elsewhere as Swiss chard or seakale.

However, this seems to have regional variations, even within Australia. At the Australian Word Map site http://www.abc.net.au/wordmap/ several contributors reported that the vegetable was known to them as spinach, while the vegetable known by that name elsewhere was called English spinach.

As a side note, the Encarta dictionary says that silver beet is "Australasian beet", a plant native to Australia and New Zealand. This seems to be completely bogus.

Anonymous said...

"Pumpkin" here (Wisconsin, USA) usually means the ones they carve jack-o-lanterns out of, and another large orange roundish winter squash. Acorn squash, butternut squash and some other hard varieties are collectively referred to as winter squash.

I often shop at a black-owned supermarket. They carry turnip greens, collard greens (thicker than turnip greens), and mustard greens, and also spinach. Farmers' markets often sell turnip greens with the turnips on. The turnips are white, purplish at the top, and white inside.

Those onions about the diameter of a pencil and sold in bunches, are usually called green onions here. My mother who is from Pennsylvania, calls them scallions. They use that word here too.

I was wondering what "swedes" and "marrows" were!

kiwianna said...

"Silverbeet" is also used in NZ to refer to AmE "swiss chard".

the "Collins English Dictionary - essential edition" defines silverbeet as "n Austal & NZ a beet of Australia and New Zealand with edible spinach-like leaves" (there is no entry for chard, swiss or otherwise)

Sounds like Antipodean Lexiographers need to make a few more research trips to the northern hemisphere!

jhm said...

The native Jamaicans who work here in New England, use "Irish" for potatoes (at least the white skin/flesh ones).

While I would use "squash" for many different types, they are almost always of the form: "____ squash," where the blank describes what variety I mean. Aside from cucumbers (as far as I know), pumpkins are the only exception. There is the added twist that while many hard-squash custards are used to fill "pumpkin pies," only the smaller "sweet pumpkin" is really appropriate (and inferior to Butternut, Blue Hubbard, and most other types). The larger jack-o-lantern types are for decoration (or to feed pigs, et alii).

As for English cucumbers, my impression was that they were generally quite large in comparison to American slicers. I seem to remember that we had this discussion before, but to Britons pickle these cukes? I received a jar of something called a something pickle from England which looked like chutney or some such, so perhaps they do not call brine curing pickling.

lynneguist said...

jhm, please see/comment at the pickle post.

Elizabeth said...

Recently I went to a farmers market in Chicago and ran into a linguistic quirk I'd never heard before. Spring onion/green onion/scallion was being sold under the name of green garlic. I have no idea if this is a regionalism or what was going on there.

Mrs Redboots said...

I think green garlic is a slightly different vegetable to spring onions/scallions - it's kind of sprouted garlic, I think. Rather nice....

Alexis said...

I don't think even in Berkeley that spring onions/green onions/scallions are different. Some people use "scallions" to refer only to the green parts, but it's all the same vegetable. (Chives on the other hand are indeed something else.)

Pattypan squash are grown at least in CA and sold at the farmer's market I go to, but I'd never seen them before I moved here, so they aren't standard in grocery stores.

I'm pretty sure Roma is a particular varietal of plum tomato (Wikipedia agrees). The grape/cherry/plum names are just names for the size or general type; varietals have much more specific names.

lynneguist said...

Garlic greens, also called ramsons, are not the same as green/spring onions. They're really lovely sauteed.

Anonymous said...

A couple things... The people who make a distinction between "green onion"/"scallion" and "spring onion", like the produce department at my local Whole Foods, understand "spring onion" to be any variety of onion that is uprooted while immature: the "spring onions" I bought last spring had immature bulbs about an inch and a half in diameter. "Scallions" are supposedly a specific cultivar that does not grow a large bulb.

As for "pumpkin"/"squash": "pumpkin" is the original term; pre-Columbian BrE used "pumpkin" for all of the hard fruit with seedy goop inside that we now call "winter squashes". At some point, the Algonquian-derived word "squash" displaced "pumpkin" from most of the family, but not the large orange fruit, at least in AmE usage. It seems plausible that this may have happened in stages, first with the summer varieties and then with the winter.

biochemist said...

When Mrs Redboots and I were growing up (in the UK) fruit and veg were sold by greengrocers - usually a pretty basic shop, no refirgeration, and of course the goods were usually from the local area, and seasonal. In BrE then I think 'produce' was used at, say, Harvest Festival or a village sale where there would be offerings of 'produce' - from one's garden - alongside jam and cakes.
I first went to an American Produce Market in 1971 - it was a large outdoor market and sold much better vegetables, and a better range, than the supermarket.
Im sure the advent of chilled shelves in the veg section of British supermarkets has run in parallel with our demand for exotic and long-distance vegetables (and fruit!).

Mrs Redboots said...

Indeed yes! In fact, our local greengrocers mutated into a garden centre-type shop and only closed a few months ago when the owner died.

I am now totally spoilt for choice for fruit and vegetables, living in a part of London that not only has supermarkets, but also a major street market and a local farmers' market on Sundays! And it's always been easy to find vegetables like okra or sweet potatoes that were unfamiliar thirty years ago but are now becoming old friends. And tinned ackee....

Kathleen said...

I've seen pattypan squash at farmers' markets in the Midwestern U.S.; I'm not sure whether I've ever seen it in a grocery.

I can add another regional American vegetable term: cymlin, meaning a small, usually crooknecked, yellow-skinned summer squash. I know the term from my mother, who is from the Kentucky bluegrass. It may have fallen out of usage there, since I have no recent data.

Alison said...

Regarding the "scallion" vs. "spring-onion" distinction, my north-east English mother was delighted when she visited me in New York and found that Americans used the word "scallion". This was the term she'd grown up with in Sunderland, and always used.

Alison said...

Regarding the "scallion" vs. "spring-onion" distinction, my north-east English mother was delighted when she visited me in New York and found that Americans used the word "scallion". This was the term she'd grown up with in Sunderland, and always used.

Anonymous said...

In Indian English, Aubergine/eggplant is 'brinjal', green/bell pepper is 'capsicum', and okra is 'lady's fingers' or 'ladies' fingers' :)

lynneguist said...

I meant to add...many BrE speakers use Indian names for vegetables when speaking of Indian food. Brinjal, ladies' fingers, sag, chana...

Here's a glossary.

Tregina said...

Regarding grape/cherry/Roma tomatoes. We grow them every year in our garden and there is a discernable difference. Grape tomatoes are small and seem to grow in bunches on the vine, giving them the appearance of grapes on the vine, while cherry tomatoes are slightly larger and grow randomly on the vine. Romas and plums are slightly different, plums being heart-shaped with a pointy bottom giving them a plum like appearance, while Romas appear pear shaped. (And yes, I know "pear-shaped" has a British meaning...)

Anonymous said...

Mrs Redboots is correct - lima beans (US) are the same as British broad beans. Fava beans are something entirely different - the same shape, but smaller, browner and with a little black spot at the "dip" of the bean. They are particularly used in Middle Eastern cooking (and are the cause of a sometimes fatal allery known as "favism" - a genetic weakness).

Anonymous said...

Being BrE, my new AmE wife has just pointed me at your blog - and I'm afraid that this post has suggested to me that whenever she's written down "romaine lettuce" I must have been getting entirely the wrong thing. Oh well - you win some, you lose some ....

As a matter of point I should mention that I've seen spaghetti squash (and other squashes) recently at both Waitrose and Tesco.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I'm coming late to this post, but I want to say how local all these names for the produce we eat as vegetables can be. Where I grew up in the 1950s and '60s, on North Carolina's central coast, we definitely ate collards a.k.a collard greens. But "greens" was a term that needed a qualifier.

We had turnip greens (my grandmother's favorite), collard greens (my mother's), or mustard greens (orphaned in my family, I think). Some people referred to these generically as "pot herbs" — or was that one word, "potherbs"? They grew wild along the roadsides. In the '60s, I think, the name "pot" herbs died out because of other herbs brought into the area by military personnel returning with their stashes from Vietnam. We grew and ate a lot of cabbage too. All these (except the imported ones) were served with cornmeal dumplings.

"Beans" was another term that needed a qualifier. There were string beans and pole beans. I'm not sure what the difference was. I'm not sure we had "green beans" or "bush beans." And in the dried form we had pinto beans, navy beans, and great northern beans (a.k.a. great northerns). I don't especially remember kidney beans, but we ate a lot of pork'n'beans. We certainly had butter beans, and they were fresh, not dried. We had lima beans, but not baby limas. Our "great limas" were very large, flat, dried white beans that were cooked down into a loose, starchy paste, with salt pork.

And "peas" — the green ones were called English peas to distinguish them from black-eyed peas, crowder peas, and field peas. The English ones were also called sweet peas or garden peas, I think. You can still find crowder peas and field peas in Southern supermarkets, in tins/cans.

In Eastern N.C., potatoes came in two varieties, Irish and sweet. One was as common as the other on local dinner tables. N.C. produces a lot of sweet potatoes. "Irish" was pronounced something like "AH-ish" and potatoes often as 'taters. I was maybe 12 years old before I realized that AH-ish meant Irish.

Turnips were white, and the yellow ones were called either rutabagas or swede. Mostly we called them rutabagas, but I'm sure we knew both terms.

I'm sure the only lettuce we had was iceberg. We loved okra, tomatoes, and bell peppers. And corn. I think that was about it.

My family is of English and Ulster origin, not African-American. I wonder if all of us in the area used the same terms for all this produce, but back then we were pretty segregated so I don't know.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Oh, and "squash" meant yellow summer squash. We didn't have winter squash (not having much of a winter) and we didn't have zucchini.

fauxklore said...

Re: lettuces, if cos is "romaine," what is "cos cob" called? That was the name we used in the northeast for a sort of loose leaf lettuce which is less bitter than romaine. (And which, come to think of it, I have not actually seen in several years)

Re: green beans, string beans are a specific variety which really do have a string you have to remove before eating them. Haricots verts are the skinny French green beans, though you can also "french" normal green beans by cutting them into that shape. Pole beans are flatter than other green beans (and less tasty in my opinion).

Peggy said...

Here in Southern California I've purchased all kinds of summer squash in the supermarket: zucchini, a smaller variety called "Mexican squash", yellow crookneck, pattypan

In the late fall they usually carry both carving pumpkins and eating pumpkins (called pie pumpkins or similar). My local green grocer usually also has what they call "fairytale squash" (Musquee de Provence), which is pumpkin shaped but has a greenish-orange outer skin.

There's also a difference between "snow peas", which are almost completely flat pods and "sugar snap peas", which have rounder pods and are nice and crunchy.

Anne said...

My midwestern farming relatives raise "corn and beans"--meaning field corn (for animal feed) and soybeans. In their own garden, they grow "sweet corn," which is what I would just call corn.

Belinda said...

In Australia we say:


capsicum (peppers), eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), shallots/spring onions (scallions), snow peas (mangetout), chickpeas, cos lettuce,

WHen I think of squash in Oz, I think of the really small pumpkin shaped things that are yellow. I didn't really know that other squashes existed til I went to the UK.

hombus said...

I got here because I was trying to figure out why I couldn't find "turnip" in the store in Fort Myers, Florida. I gather now that what my Ma puts in Beef Stew, and mashes up on holidays, is what everyone else calls Rutabaga, or Swede!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to hear that zucchini/courgettes are technically small marrows, because in South Africa that's what they are called: baby marrows.

melissa said...

a "better late than never" comment...

On pattypan squash - they're grown quite commonly here on the Texas Gulf Coast. They make up the bulk of my summer squash consumption because they're just so damn cute, mainly, and they have a nice fresh flavor. You can get them in various sizes and colorings although they're all pretty much white on the inside and taste the same from what I can tell.

And thinking of which - at least in this area where there are a lot of different kinds of squash, "summer squash" is used to refer to the varieties that are ripe in the summer season (zucchini, yellow and crookneck squash, pattypan etc.) and "winter squash" to the heavier, more starchy ones that are available in the fall and winter months (acorn, butternut, spaghetti squashes and pumpkin etc.). But as you say it may be a regional thing.

Shane Peterson said...

I'm quite late but I'd like to say thanks for the great list! BTW, I grew up in the US in Wisconsin and was force-fed pattypan squash every summer. I hated them! My dad grew them! Now I live far away from there and would LOVE to have one^^

Aussie in France said...

I'm a translator so thse differences are a complete headache on a menu!

What about lamb's lettuce? In French it's called mâche and is a leaf a bit like watercress, only bigger.

lynneguist said...

I can't find any evidence that different names for lamb's lettuce are a BrE/AmE thing. I know it as 'lamb's lettuce' in the UK and didn't eat it in the US, but looking at my hometown supermarket's website, they have a recipe for a navy bean & mache salad, for which they put 'lamb's lettuce' in parentheses.

Both UK and US dictionaries give 'lamb's lettuce' as an alternative name for 'corn salad'--a term I don't know, but it looks like it might have been the more common term in the past.

tjh said...

I've watched a few episodes of Masterchef Professionals on BBC America, and I can't decipher something, maybe a vegetable, that sounds like "sep" when spoken. Sep puree, sep something else...

Any tips for an American?

lynneguist said...

Presumably it was 'cep', a type of mushroom. As far as I know, that's what it is called in AmE too, though they're probably not as common.

David Crosbie said...

Many people use the Italian porcini instead of the French (simplified spelling) cep. Quite a few books cite the English name penny bun mushroom, but I've never heard this or seen it in cookery writings. Some cookery writers use the Latin botanical name boletus — although strictly speaking this covers a number of related mushrooms. There's even an anglicised Latin boletes. The full botanical name is boletus edulis.

Whatever you call them, they're delicious. Even dried porcini are worth buying — they make a great soup.

lynneguist said...

Aha, thanks David. Porcini is what you'd say in AmE, but I'd never linked the two (and neither did the dictionary on my phone when I was responding!)

tjh said...

Excellent help on the cep (or cepe) clarification. Right on target.

Thanks very much.

Diane said...

Unbelievably, even though this vegetable thread has been going on for six years, no one has mentioned my favorite cooked green: kale. It's very popular now, even in the form of "chips," which are a roasted salty crunchy version, and smoothies, of all things. Does kale have the same name in BrE?

Also, it seems to me that BrE "sprouts" tended to mean only Brussels sprouts, while in AmE "sprouts" without a qualifier usually means bean or alfalfa sprouted seeds. I haven't been in England since 2001, though, so I'm sure I'm out of date.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

As far as I am concerned, kale is cattle food, not people food!

But you are quite right, sprouts here in the UK always means Brussels - if we mean sprouted seeds (which are not a normal sandwich ingredient here, as they can be in the USA), we say so. You can only really buy beansprouts in the supermarkets (although having said that, I did see sprouted lentils today, but they were eye-wateringly expensive).

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Since this thread has resurrected itself, another comment on broad/lima beans - in the USA, you appear not only to pod the beans, as one should, but also to remove the delicious outer skin of the beans. I tend to buy them frozen, I'm afraid, but here the outer skin is always left on. Sometimes it is removed from beans grown in one's garden if the pod has been overlooked and got a bit elderly, but not unless.

Judy said...

Hi, Lynne. Please tell me why the pic illustrating "marrow" here http://mentalfloss.com/article/58701/28-keys-decoding-british-pub-menus
is wrong. It seems to fit the broad OED definition. NOAD is much narrower: Brit. a white-fleshed green-skinned gourd, which is eaten as a vegetable.
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbita_pepo defines it as C. pepo var. fastigata, which includes spaghetti squash.
Would you say it has to have white flesh and green skin?
Thanks!
Judy

lynneguist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lynneguist said...

Spaghetti squash--and many squashes you see in the US--are not much known or seen in the UK. If you see 'marrow' on a UK pub menu (which you wouldn't often, they're more the kind of things people grow in gardens and then try to get their friends to take off their hands--much like runner beans, in my experience), it will be referring to something like a really big, watery zucchini/courgette. If I were illustrating 'marrow', I'd go for a picture out of Wallace and Gromit's 'Curse of the Were Rabbit' like these:
Spaghetti squash--and many squashes you see in the US--are not much known or seen in the UK. If you see 'marrow' on a UK pub menu (which you wouldn't, often, they're more the kind of things people grow in gardens and then try to get their friends to take off their hands--much like runner beans, in my experience), it will be referring to something like a really big, watery zucchini/courgette. If I were illustrating 'marrow', I'd go for a picture out of Wallace and Gromit's 'Curse of the Were Rabbit' like these.

lynneguist said...

Hmph. Copied my message twice instead of copying the link I was trying for. Here it is:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=wallace+and+gromit+marrow&client=firefox-a&hs=4ww&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=1T4MVKGbNYThaPj4gdgK&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1151&bih=638

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Actually, while sometimes people call an overgrown courgette/zucchini a marrow, a proper marrow, of the cultivar that's supposed to be one, actually has very much more flavour!

Some people do grow spaghetti squash here - I have found it in a farmers' market. I personally don't think it's worth it, but I know a lot of people do like it. I like a good marrow, though - and have half a one in my fridge right now!

Monique Picard said...

VERY interesting, thank you!
Haven't have time to read all the comments yet but "courgettes" are not a small type of full, round marrows. Even grown big they never get a round shape. They are long and firm, of a dull orangey colour.
(posted by a Frenchie in Southern Fr.)

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I think you may have misunderstood the word "round" in this context - cylindrical, rather than spherical. You will find a good picture of one here.

Also, courgettes in this country are mostly green; you can grow yellow ones - my parents do, and I have some of theirs in the fridge right now - but they are not sold in the shops. And you can sometimes get gourd-shaped ones like these but not often in this country, mostly in France!