There are approximately 10,000 plant species that are used as vegetables, but only 50 of those are of any commercial value. In order to simplify planning and discussions they are classified into three groups:

  • according to method of culture
  • according to botanical classification and
  • according to economical importance (in South Africa)



Classification of vegetables with the same general culture method and pest and disease control
Crop groupDescription
Leafy vegetablesThese are crops which leaves are either eaten raw or cooked. They include Lettuce, mustard, amaranth and celery.
Cole cropsMost crops that belong to the cabbage family such as Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc.
CucurbitsAll crops that belong to cucurbit family and gourd family such as bitter gourd, cucumbers and pumpkins.
LegumesCrops such as cowpeas, soybeans, peas and beans
Root and bulb tuber cropsCrops which the edible part grows beneath the soil. They are crops such as onions, garlic, potato, sweet potato, radish etc.
Solanaceous cropsTomatoes, brinjals and peppers
Classification of commercially grown vegetables according to botanical and scientific names.
Plant familyCommon nameScientific name
SolanaceaePotatoesSolanum tubberosum L.
GooseberryPhysalis peruviana L. var. edulis
Brinjal (Egg fruit)Solanum melongena L. var. esculentum
Hot peppersCapsicum frutescens L.
Sweet peppersCapsicum annuum L.
TomatoesLycopersicon esculentum L.
Alliaceae (or Liliaceae)Spring onionsAllium fistulosum L.
ChivesAllium shoenoprasum L.
GarlicAllium sativum
LeekAllium ampeloprasum L. var. porrum (L.)
ShallotAllium cepa L. var. aggregatum
OnionsAllium cepa L. var. cepa
Brassicaceae or CruciferaeCauliflowerBrassica oleracea L. var. botrytis L.
KaleBrassica oleracea L. var. acephala
BroccoliBrassica oleracea L. var. botrytis L.
KohlrabiBrassica oleracea L. var. gongylodes L.
CabbageBrassica oleracea L. var. capitata L.
Horse RadishArmoracia rusticana Geartn.
TurnipBrassica rapa L.
RadishRaphanus sativus L.
Chinese cabbageBrassica chinensis L.
Brussels sproutsBrassica oleracea L. var. gemmifera Zenk.
CucurbitaceaeCucumber (Gherkin)Cucumus sativus L.
Cucumber (Glasshouse)Cucumus sativus L.
Pumpkin (Boer)Cucurbita maxima Duchesne
Pumpkin (Hubbard)Cucurbita maxima Duchesne
Pumpkin (Ceylon)Cucurbita moschata (Duch.) Poir.
MarrowsCucurbita pepo L.
Baby marrowsCucurbita pepo L.
Gem SquashCucurbita pepo L
ButternutsCucurbita moschata (Duch.) Poir.
ChoyoteSechium edule (Jacq.) Swartz
Melon (Sweet)Cucumis melo L.
Water melonCitrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Mansf..
Fabaceae or LeguminoseaeBroad beansVicia faba L.
Dry peasPisum sativum L.
Garden peasPisum sativum L.
Green beans (Bush)Phaseolus vulgaris L. var. humilus
Green beans (Climbing)Phaseolus vulgaris L.
Apace or UmbelliferaeParsleyPetroselinum crispum (Mill.)
CeleryApium graveolens L.
ParsnipPastinaca sativa L.
CarrotsDaucus carota L. Subsp. Sativus
AsteraceaEndiveCichorium endiva L.
Artichoke (Globe)Cynara scolymus L.
Artichoke (Jerusalem)Helianthus tuberosus L.
SalsifyTragopagon porrifolius L.
LettuceLactuca sativa L.
LiliaceaeAsparagusAsparagus officinalis L.
ChenopodiaceaeBeetroot (Garden beet)Beta vulgaris L. subsp. Vulgaris
Swiss chardBeta vulgaris L. var. cicla
SpinachSpinacia oleracea L.
PolygonaeaeRhubarbRheum rhaponticum L.
MalvaceaeOkraHibiscus esculentus L.
ConvolvulaceaeSweet potatoesIpomoea batatas L.
Some of the produce sold on the 15 national fresh produce markets during 1996. Sorted from highest to lowest total sales. The absolute values does not matter, it is the relative size of production of each crop that must be taken into account when contemplating your target market and commercial hydroponic farm.
CropSales (x1000 t)
Hubbard squash51
Butternut squash36.6
Lettuce (all types)30.8
Gem Squash28.2
Sweet potatoes29.4
Beet root23.9
Green beans15.8
English Cucumbers4.8
Green maize1.5
Green peas1.2