Vegetables and Beans
The domestication of wild plants began around 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. The initial domestication occurred in the Middle East, but agriculture also arose independently in other places at other times. Southeast Asia, Central and South America also cradled ancient civilizations that produced their own agricultural products. Because of this, most of the vegetables we find on our plates today originated in these four areas of the world.
Vegetables do not generally form the caloric foundation of human diets, nor are they a large source of protein. The basic role of vegetables in the diet is to provide a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential to the well being of the body. These nutrients not only maintain heath but also help prevent the onset of disease.
A second and more enjoyable role of vegetables is to provide variety and flavor. Grains and grain products alone can be bland. And meat can be heavy and difficult to digest. But add tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, herbs and spices, and a dish is transformed. The endless variety of colors, scents and flavors offered by vegetables ensure that cooking, eating and the culinary experience are never boring.