As a person who loves to cook with the freshest ingredients possible, the study of plant cultivation (particularly for eating) is of great interest. There is such a great diversity to the edible plants, and with artificial environment creation, almost any of them can be grown almost anywhere. I keep a Aerogarden of herbs here in my kitchen, and being able to add freshly picked basil or oregano or rosemary to a meal is tremendously satisfying. To know that the food you are eating was grown yourself from seed creates such a feeling of self-sufficiency that I recommend everyone have at least a window-side pot of herbs. This page is an introduction to the biology of edible plants (and mushrooms!), their taxonomy, and how best to grow/use them yourself. Non-edible groups are shown in brackets for taxonomic comparison.

Division Angiospermae (Magnoliophyta)

The flowering plants are a relatively recent group of organisms, geologically speaking. We can trace their origin back to the Early Cretaceous, roughly 125 million years ago. They all possess the capacity to flower, stamens with two pairs of pollen sacs, reduced male and female gametophytes (reducing time between pollination and fertilization), a closed carpel covering the ovules (which becomes the fruit in many species), and the presence of an endosperm (highly nutritious tissue that aids the plant as a developing embryo and the cotyledons). Due to their ability to inhabit a wider range of ecological niches than other plants, angiosperms have become the dominant form of plant life on Earth, rivaled only by vast coniferous forests of Canada and Russia.

Class Liliopsida (Monocots)

Monocots are characterized by having one cotyledon (seed-leaf) as opposed to two. They comprise the vast majority of agriculture biomass due to the inclusion of all the true grains (Poaceae). They also contain the most diverse family of the plants, the Orchidaceae (orchids) with around 20,000 species.

Order Arecales

Family Arecacea (Palms) - These are the palms, used often for landscape and interior decorating, as well as producing coconuts.

Order Asparagales

Family Alliaceae (Onions) - The onion family includes onions, chives, leeks, scallions, shallots, and garlic; some of my favorite foods.

Family Asparagaceae - Asparagus

Family Iridaceae - Saffron

Order Dioscoreales

Family Dioscoreaceae - Yams

Order Poales

This order contains the plants from which most of the world gets its daily nutrition: the grains.

Family Poaceae (Grass) - These are the grasses, and include barley, bamboo, corn, millet, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, sugarcane, and wheat.

Family Bromeliaceae - Pineapple

Order Zingiberales

Family Musaceae - Bananas

Class Magnoliopsida (Dicots)

Order Apiales

Family Apiaceae (Carrot)- These are the umbellifers: angelica, anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley, and parsnip

[Family Araliaceae] - Ivy

Order Asterales

Family Asteraceae (Sunflower)- Includes artichoke, cardoon, chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, radicchio, sunflower (seeds), tarragon

Order Brassicales

Family Brassicaceae (Cabbage) - Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapini, rutabaga, tat soi, turnip

Family Caricaceae - papaya

Family Capparaceae - capers

Order Caryophyllales

Family Amaranthaceae (Beets) - amaranth, beet, chard, spinach, quinoa

Family Polygonaceae - rhubarb, buckwheat, sorrel

Order Cucurbitales

Family Cucurbitaceae (Melons) - cucumber, chayote, melon, pumpkin, squash, watermelon

Order Ericales

Family Actinidiaceae - kiwi

Family Ericaceae - blueberry, cranberry

Family Ebanaceae - persimmon

Order Fabales

Family Fabaceae (Legumes) - beans, fava beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, soybeans

Order Lamiales

Family Lamiaceae (Mint) - basil, mint, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, thyme

Family Oleaceae - olive, [lilac], [jasmine]

Order Laurales

Family Lauraceae - avocado, cinnamon, bay laurel

Order Myrtales

Family Myrtaceae - guava, clove, allspice

Family Lythraceae - pomegranate

Order Sapindales

Family Anacardiaceae - mango, cashew, pistachio, [poison ivy], [sumac]

Family Rutaceae (Citrus) - orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, kumquat, mandarin, tangerine

Family Sapindaceae - maple

Order Solanales

Family Solanaceae (Nightshade) - bell pepper, eggplant, potato, tomato, peppers

Order Rosales

Family Rosaceae - apple, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, pear, quince, plum, peach, cherry, apricot, almond, nectarine

Order Viatles

Family Vitaceae - grape

Kingdom Fungi

Division Basidiomycota

Class Agaricomycetes

Order Agaricales

Family Agaricaceae - field mushroom, button mushroom (portabella, crimini)

Family Tricholomataceae - Shiitake mushroom, oyster mushroom

Order Boletales

Family Boletaceae - king bolete mushroom

Order Cantharellales

Family Cantharellaceae - chanterelle mushroom

Division Ascomycota

Class Pezizomycetes

Order Pezizales

Family Tuberaceae - truffles