Roots, Fruits, Shoots and Leaves!

Roots, Fruits, Shoots and Leaves!

Learn about the parts of the plant on your plate

by Rachel Shreve

Summer is a great time to learn about the plants we eat. Have you ever stopped to think about what part of the plant you’re eating when you crunch down on a carrot or sink your teeth into an apple? Those might be easy for most of us to answer — carrots are a ROOT vegetable, and apples are a FRUIT. But what about other vegetables? There isn’t a plant part called “the vegetable.” And, don’t some people say that tomatoes are a fruit? This is all so confusing! 

Here’s how we talk about it in Cooking with Kids. Eating a wide variety of edible plants is a great way to get lots of nutrients. Sometimes we eat the roots, stems or leaves of a plant, and sometimes we eat the seeds, fruit or even the flower. In the plant world, the fruit is the part of the plant that holds the seeds. That means that cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers are fruits, although we only think of them this way when they are in the garden! When we eat these foods, we think of them as vegetables. Other vegetables may be the roots (carrots or turnips), the shoot or stem (sunflower sprouts or asparagus), the leaves (cabbage or lettuce), the seed (peas or corn) or the flower (broccoli or cauliflower). It’s a fun challenge to figure out which plant part we’re eating.

Take the Edible Plants Challenge 

How many different plant parts can you eat in one day? In one meal? Making a salad is an easy way to mix lots of different plant parts together, and making your own salad dressing is a great activity for kids. Here are a couple of salad combos to get you started, plus two salad dressings we’ve mixed up this spring with thousands of kids in Española and Santa Fe Public Schools. For tips on how kids can help, check out Cooking with Kids’ how-to videos on making salad and salad dressing, in English ( or Spanish ( 

Some salad combos to get you started:

  • Green leaf lettuce, radishes and cucumber (leaf, root and fruit) 
  • Romaine lettuce, apple and sunflower seeds (leaf, fruit and seed)
  • Spinach, fennel and clementines (leaf, root/bulb and fruit)
  • Red leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrots and sunflower sprouts (leaf, fruit, root and shoot)

Creamy Lime Dressing

This delicious creamy lime dressing is a Cooking with Kids’ favorite — perfect for tossing over a whole salad or using as a dipping sauce for anyone who prefers their salad “unmixed.”

  • ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest (green part of the skin)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

Stir together the yogurt or sour cream, paprika, sugar and salt. Whisk in the lime zest, lime juice and water until the mixture is smooth. This dressing will keep several days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Aderezo Cremoso de Lima

  • ½ cucharadita de ralladura de lima (la parte verde de la cáscara)
  • 1 cucharada de jugo de lima
  • 2 cucharadas de agua
  • ½ taza de crema agria
  • ⅛ cucharadita de paprika
  • ½ cucharadita de azúcar
  • ¼ cucharadita de sal

Mezcle el yogur o la crema agria, la paprika, el azúcar y la sal. Agregue la ralladura de lima, el jugo de lima y el agua a la mezcla, batiendo hasta que no tenga grumos. Este aderezo se puede conservar por varios días en el refrigerador. 

French Vinaigrette

You can whisk this simple dressing in a bowl (see instructions below) OR measure everything into a bottle or jar with a secure lid, place the lid on tight, and shake.

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅓ cup olive oil 

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly, add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth.

Vinagreta francesa

  • 1 cucharadita de mostaza estilo Dijon
  • 2 cucharadas de jugo de limón
  • 1 cucharada de vinagre de vino o de cidra
  • ¼ cucharadita de sal
  • ⅛ cucharadita de pimienta Negra
  • ⅓ taza de aceite de oliva

En un tazón pequeño, bata la mostaza, el jugo de limón, el vinagre, la sal y la pimienta. Lentamente, agregue el aceite de oliva, batiendo hasta obtener una mezcla uniforme. Deje el aderezo a un lado.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  •  ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  •  ⅓ cup sunflower oil
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil 

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the sunflower oil and olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth.  

Vinagreta Balsámica

  • 2 cucharadas de vinagre balsámico
  •  ½ cucharadita de mostaza Dijon
  •  ¼ cucharadita de sal
  •  ⅛ cucharadita de pimienta negra
  •  ⅓ taza de aceite de girasol
  •  1 cucharada de aceite de oliva

En un tazón pequeño, bata el vinagre, la mostaza Dijon, la sal y la pimienta. Agregue el aceite de girasol y el aceite de oliva en un chorro continuo, batiendo constantemente hasta que la mezcla esté uniforme.


Rachel Shreve is the communications director for Cooking with Kids, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides nutrition education programs in school classrooms and cafeterias in Santa Fe and Española. Visit for kid-tested recipes, how-to videos and other resources.


Arts & Culture

Performing Arts



Birthday Parties

Pools & Splash Pads

Local Attractions


Learning & Literacy



Special Needs


Family Services

Mom Groups

ad featuring white and brown dog

More Like This

Expanding Produce Prescription Programs for Santa Fe Families

Expanding Produce Prescription Programs for Santa Fe Families

Expanding Produce Prescription Programs for Santa Fe Families Food as medicine programs connect patients to healthy food.By Carrie Thielen Every Thursday afternoon at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, families pick up a variety of fresh produce and recipes at the...

Food for Thought

Food for Thought

Food for Thought How your busy family can feed your kids and not feel bad about it By Sonya Paiz Eating healthy can be hard for all of us! When you add kids and a busy schedule to the mix, providing a healthy meal at home or on the go can seem impossible. Feeding a...

Restaurant Guide 2023

Restaurant Guide 2023

Restaurant Guide 2023 Cafés OHORI'S COFFEE ROASTERS Indoor and Outdoor Seating, Drive-Through A uniquely small, local coffee roaster with two café locations in Santa Fe. Ohori's has good pastries, kid-friendly drinks like steamers and hot chocolate, and welcoming...