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Grocery Store Botany

Did you know?

Almost everything that we eat comes from plants in one way or another. (Even when we eat meat, we eat animals which have fed on plants to grow and survive). So, when we learn about the food we eat, we can become scientists, dappling in botany, ecology, agriculture, zoology, etc. One very simple way to initiate a botanical discussion is to just look at the food we eat.

For example, let’s start with everyone’s favourite – cookies. Think about what plants and plant parts we eat when we enjoy a chocolate chip cookie. Flour comes from wheat (usually), which is the seed of the wheat plant. Sugar usually comes from either sugar cane (the sap of a grass plant, which is very high in sucrose) or sugar beet (this is a variety of Beta vulgaris; other varieties include the familiar root vegetable beet or beetroot and the leafy chard). Chocolate comes from the seed of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), and may also include sugar and milk. If the cookie contains eggs and milk, remember that while these are animal-based foods, animals need to eat plants to survive!