Vegetables are those parts of plants that are consumed by humans as food as part of a meal. Originally, the term was applied to plants collectively and is still commonly used, especially in biology, to refer to all plant matter, including the flowers, fruits, stems, leaves, roots, seeds. In modern, everyday usage, the definition of the term vegetable is applied somewhat arbitrarily, often by culinary and cultural tradition. It may exclude foods derived from plants that are fruits, nuts, and cereal grains, but include fruits such as tomatoes and courgettes and seeds such as pulses. Originally, vegetables were collected from the wild by hunter-gatherers and entered cultivation in several parts of the world, probably during the period 10,000 BC to 7,000 BC, when a new agricultural way of life developed. At first, plants which grew locally would have been cultivated, but as time went on, trade brought exotic crops from elsewhere to add to domestic types. Nowadays, most vegetables are grown all over the world as climate permits, and crops may be cultivated in protected environments in less suitable locations. China is the largest producer of vegetables and global trade in agricultural products allows consumers to purchase vegetables grown in faraway countries. The scale of production varies from subsistence farmers supplying the needs of their family for food, to agribusinesses with vast acreages of single-product crops. Depending on the type of vegetable concerned, harvesting the crop is followed by grading, storing, processing, and marketing.
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