The Biology Topics of ecology involves studying the relationships between living organisms and their environment.
Different Plant Parts as Sources of Food
The various parts of plants which are used as food materials by us are : Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits and Seeds. This means that almost all the parts of plants are used as food in one way or the other. This is discussed below.
1. Plant Roots as Food
Some plants store food in their roots (which are actually modified roots). We eat the roots of such plants as food. For example, carrot, radish, beet, sweet potato, and turnip which we use as food
materials are the roots of their respective plants. Some of the roots of plants which we eat as food are shown in Figure.
2. Plant Stems as Food
Some plants store food in their stems (which are actually modified, underground stems). We eat the stems of such plants as food. For example, onion, potato, ginger, garlic and turmeric which we use as food materials are the stems of their respective plants. Some of the stems of plants which we use as food are shown in Figure on the next page.
3. Plant Leaves as Food
We eat many leafy vegetables. The leafy vegetables are the leaves of the plants. For example, spinach (palak or saag) are the leaves of the plant which we eat as a vegetable (see Figure). Similarly, the leaves of mustard plant are also eaten as a vegetable. It is called ‘sarson ka saag’. Cabbage and lettuce are also leafy vegetables (whose leaves are eaten as food).
4. Flowers as Food
The flowers of some of the plants are eaten as food. For example, the flowers of banana plant are eaten as a vegetable in many parts of our country (see Figure). The flowers of pumpkin plant (kaddu plant) are also eaten as food. The pumpkin flowers are dipped in rice paste, fried and then eaten as food. Some other flowers which are eaten as food are : Sunflower, Gladiolus, Dandelion and Jasmine.
5. Fruits as Food
There are some plants which store food in their fruits. So, we eat the fruits of such plants as food. For example, apple, orange, peach, mango, pears, banana, plums, grapes, guava and pomegranate, etc., which we eat as food are all fruits of their plants (see Figure). The vegetables such as tomatoes, brinjal, lady’s finger, pumpkin and chilli (mirch), etc., which we eat as food are also actually the fruits of the respective plants.
6. Seeds as Food
Some of the plants store food in their seeds. So, we eat the seeds of these plants as food (after suitable treatment). For example, the foodgrains such as wheat, maize, rice, sorghum, millet, Bengal gram (chana), peas and pulses, are all seeds of their plants (see Figure). The groundnut, mustard and soyabean are also seeds. We use the seeds of wheat plants (called wheat grains) to make flour for making chapatti, bread and
noodles, etc. The groundnut and mustard seeds are called oilseeds because they are used to extract edible ‘oils’ which are used for cooking food.
Some plants have two (or more) edible parts which can be eaten as food. For example, the leaves of mustard plant are used as a leafy vegetable (sarson ka saag), and the seeds of mustard plant are used to extract mustard oil which is used as a cooking oil in the preparation of food. Similarly, the fruits of banana plant are used as food, and the flowers of the banana plant are also used as food in the form of vegetable. Please note that all the plants around us are ‘not edible’. Some of the plants are even poisonous and hence not fit for eating.
When the seeds begin to grow (or germinate) by developing tiny roots, they are called sprouts. The ‘food value’ of some type of seeds can be increased by converting them into ‘sprouts’. The sprouts contain more of vitamins A, B and C which makes them a more nutritious food. The method of making sprouts from seeds is called ‘sprouting’. Sprouting means the process whereby seeds begin to grow (or germinate).
‘Sprouting’ is called ‘ankurari in Hindi, The seeds of moong, moth and chana are usually converted into sprouts in our homes to make snacks. Sprouts can be prepared from the seeds as follows.
Activity : To Prepare Sprouts
Take about 50 gram seeds of chana (Bengal gram) or moong (green gram), put them in a vessel containing water and keep them overnight. Next day, remove the seeds from water. Now, wrap the seeds in a piece of wet cloth and keep them aside for one day. Water should be sprinkled on the piece of cloth from time to time to keep it wet.
When we open the wrap we will find that tiny white structures have grown out of the seeds (see Figure). We say that the seeds have sprouted or that the sprouts have been formed. The sprouts can be boiled and eaten as a snack after adding salt and spice.