Vegetables have many important functions in peoples’ everyday life. It has of course considerable nutritional benefit, but additional to this, it has, historical, social and economic importance. Vegerables are also difficutl to define (see Classification of vegetables), where the potato is a stable crop it is often defined as a vegetable, while in most rice growing countries it is defined as a 'field crop'. This difference in terminology may have resulted from a difference in agricultural systems. In countries where the potato and corn are referred to as 'vegetables' the alternative term "field crops" is used to referrer to those crops that are exclusively grown under extensive agricultural systems, this includes crops such as wheat, oats, barley, cotton, rye, soybeans etc. Because of their popularity in
America, Europe, South and Central America and many other counries the potato and sweet corn (Zea mays var. rugosa) are often grown in kitchen and community gardens and small allotments and as such are not exclusive to large scale production, it for this reason they are defined as vegetables. In Bhutan, the potato and corn are commonly referred to as field crops and as such will not appear in this module.
Vegetables can be used in many forms, they can be eaten directly from the ground undergoing no form of processing this is referred to as primary goods. They can also be processed into oils, sauces, pies, soups and pastes. They are also further processed for preserving whether it is as frozen, canned, pickled and dried products. Vegetable oil is often recorded separate to that of other processed good in FAO statistics. This separation may be because vegetable oil can be used for reasons other than cooking and human consumption. For example vegetable oils are becoming very popular as bio fuels which are used to generate electricity and as an alternative fuel for running a vehicle.
World wide (for all uses) the potato was the most popular vegetable grown in 2007 where 47, 757.7 acres of crop was harvested (FAO, 2006). Sweet potato (22,469.0),tomato (11, 431.4 acres), watermelon, (8,900.3 acres), onions (8,623.3 acres) and the cabbage (7,616.7 acres) were the next most popular vegetables. (FAO, 2006). Of the vegetable producing countries China was consistently the largest producing country. In fact in all but four of the nine vegetable crops listed by the FAO (okra, artichokes, snap beans and sweet corn). China was recorded as the world’s largest producer in acreage of crop. Other noticeable vegetable producing countries were India, United States, Russia, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, France and Iran.
Bhutan has varied climatic conditions suitable for many different types of vegetables (See the link Agro ecological zones of Bhutan). Some are commonly grown by our farmers while some are just introduced and yet to pick up. The following is the list of vegetables that can be grown in various parts of our country.
Excluding the potato, the chilli pepper is the most popular vegetable grown in bhutan In 2003 this account for 45% of all vegetables grown with radish, 28%, cabbage 11%, pumpkin 6% and peas 4% being the nexct most popular (RNR, 2004). All other vegetables achieved less than 2% of the countries overall production.