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Resources \ Glossary
 

    
    
    

Organic Ecology Glossary:

A guide to some general and specific farming terms, personalities, organizations and so on that you might find on this site. Or elsewhere.

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A

Alfalfa: Medicago sativa (pea family.) SW Asian perennial herb, widely cultivated as a pasture and hay crop.

Almond: Amygdalis communis (rose family). Fruit of the almond tree.

Apple: Firm edible fruit of the apple tree (Malus pumila, rose family).


Apricot: Yellow to rosy fruit of the apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca, rose family) much like a small peach.

Artichoke: Cynara scolymus (sunflower family.) Mediterranean thistle-like plant whose head is edible. Ready November to March.

Asparagus: Asparagus officinalis (lily family.) Eurasian plant whose succulent young shoots are cooked and eaten as vegetables.

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B

Bacteria:Microscopic organisms carried by earth, air, water and plants, some of which cause disease but some of which are beneficial.

Banana:Musa acuminata. Asian herb whose yellow fruits are edible; their skins are occasionally used for pratfalls.


Basil: Ocimum basilicum (mint family). Aromatic herb whose leaves are used in cookery.

Bean: Edible seeds of leguminous herbs (chiefly of genera Faba, Phaseolus and Dolichos (pea family)).
  • Bean, broad: Vicia faba (pea family). Green pod with edible seeds, the classical bean. Ready June to August

  • Bean, runner: Phaseolus coccineus (pea family). High-climbing perennial bean whose pods are edible. Ready July to October

  • Bean, string: Phaseolus vulgaris (pea family). (Also Dwarf French bean.) American plant whose green pods are edible. Ready July to September

  • Bean, haricot: Various seeds or pods from plants of genus Phaseolus (pea family.) Ready November to February.
Beet: Beta vulgaris (goosefoot family). Crop plant grown for its edible roots. Ready July to March.

Biodiversity: The range of wildlife - animal and vegetable - in a given place. The more diverse the range, the better it is for the environment.

Broad bean: See bean, broad.

Broccoli: Brassica oleracea italica (mustard family). Vegetable related to the cauliflower whose flowering head is used for food. Ready October to May.

Brussels Sprouts: Brassica oleracea gemmifera (mustard family). Vegetable with long, stout cabbage-like buds. Ready November to March.

BSE: Bovine spongiform encephaly, or Mad Cow Disease. A disease in cows believed to cause, through consumption of infected beef, human-variant Creuzfeld-Jakobs Disease, which can be deadly. BSE has been one of the main factors in British beef's recent crisis.

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C

Cabbage: Brassica oleracea capitata (mustard family). European vegetable with several forms, with a round head covered in overlapping leaves. Ready October to May.

Caraway: Carum carvi (parsley family). Biennial Eurasian herb, whose seedy fruit is used as flavoring.

Carrot: Daucus carota sativus (parsley family). Biennial Eurasian plant, whose orange taproot is edible. Ready July to April.

Cauliflower: Brassica oleracea botrytis (mustard family.) Herb with a large, edible head. Ready July to October.

Celery: Apium graveolens dulce (parsley family). Biennial European plant, with edible roots, leafstalks, leaves and fruits. Ready December to April

Certifier: An organization responsible for ensuring the organic credentials of anyone in the organic chain. They do this by means of regular and unannounced inspections. They also provide help and advice about organics.

Cherry: Edible fruit of the cherry tree (often Prunus avium or Prunus cerasus, rose family).


Chickpea: Cicer arietinum (pea family). Annual Asian plant whose short inflated pods contain edible seeds.

Chives: Allium schoenoprasum (lily family). Eurasian bulbous herb whose long, hollow leaves are used as seasoning.

Companion planting: The method of planting mutually beneficial plants together - for instance, tall plants with small plants that require shade.

Compost: Decomposed organic (in the sense of living) material, full of helpful organisms. Compost is spread on plots to encourage growth.

Conventional farming: A blanket term for non- organic farming, including intensive methods. It is typified by the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Co-operative: A group of people who work together for their mutual benefit. In organics, groups of farmers and producers typically work together in this way.

Crop rotation: A farming method in which different crops are grown on the same plot over some time; a plot will generally be left fallow for some time.

Cucumber: Cucumis sativus. Annual plant with a cylindrical, watery, edible fruit.

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D

Dill: Anethum graveolens (parsley family). Aromatic herb native to Eurasia whose leaves and seeds are used as seasoning.

Dwarf French Bean: See bean, string

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E

Ecosystem:An ecological community consisting of all of the organisms in an area - plants, animals, and microscopic beasties.

Eggplant: Solanum melongena esculenta. Deep purple fruit of an Indian plant, usually available throughout the year. Can be used to flesh out vegetarian meals, to layer moussaka or can be stuffed and baked to provide a filling meal.

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F

Fallow: Describes a field producing no crops for sale, but instead "recovering" from previous exertions.

Fertilizer: Any material put on a plot to improve its production potential.

Food miles: A term signifying the distance traveled by a product between its point of origin and point of purchase.

Fungus: Kingdom of organisms which lack chlorophyll and vascular tissue. The Fungi kingdom includes the yeasts, moulds, smuts, and mushrooms.

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G

Garlic: Allium sativum (lily family). Onion-like plant of southern Europe, whose bulb breaks into cloves with a strong flavor. Reputed to kill vampires and (according to a Hebrew proverb) is "better than ten mothers" for its healing properties.

GM foods: Genetically Modified foods are products whose genetic structure is biologically altered to produce plants with desired qualities. Organic farming rejects GM foods on the grounds that it doesn't consider the whole organism.

Goosefoot family: Also called Chenopodiaceae. Contains beets and spinach.

Grape: A vine of the genus Vitis with edible berries which can be used to make wine, or just eaten.


Grapefruit: Citris paradisi. Fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, with yellow rind and a juicy acidic pulp.

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H

Haricot bean: see Bean

HDRA: The Henry Doubleday Research Association. An organization that promotes organic gardening, research and hosts an extensive seed library.

Hedgerow:A line of closely-planted trees or bushes dividing fields. Hedgerows are valuable habitats for many species. Convention farming has, over the last fifty years, tended to remove hedgerows, threatening and even making extinct some such species.

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I

IFOAM: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. A worldwide body responsible for setting organic standards.

Intensive:(Applied to farming:) Aimed at producing maximum yield as quickly as possible, by using chemicals and machinery.

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J

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K

Kale: Brassica oleracea acephala (mustard family). Edible cabbage-like plant whose leaves do not form a head. Ready December to April

Kiwi fruit: Actinidia chinensis. Furry brown fruit of a Chinese vine, whose sweet green pulp is edible. (Of the fruit, not the vine.)


Kohlrabi: Brassica oleracea gongylodes (mustard family). Plant whose thick basal stem is eaten as a vegetable.

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L

Leek:Allium porrum (lily family). Edible plant related to the onion with a white slender bulb and green leaves. Ready October to April.

Legume: See Pea family.

Lentil:Lens culinaris (pea family). Leguminous south-west Asian plant whose flat pods contain edible seeds.

Lemon: Citrus limon. A citrus fruit, yellow or green depending on the season. It is used to provide juice and occasionally seasoning.

Lettuce: Lactuca sativa (sunflower family). Plant cultivated for its edible leaves. Ready May to September.

Lily family:Also called Liliaceae. Largely vegetables such as onions and leeks.

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M

Microbe:Minute, often disease-causing organism.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF): UK ministry responsible for (among other things) Agriculture.

Mint: Various plants of genus Mentha (mint family) , usually with aromatic foliage and regular flowers, whose leaves are used as flavoring.

Mint family: Also called Lamiaceae or Labiatae. Mainly aromatic herbs such as mint, rosemary and basil.

Mulch: Organic matter spread on a plot to decompose and benefit growth. Unlike compost, mulch is not pre-decomposed.

Mushroom: Any fleshy fungus, some of which are edible, usually of genus Agaricus


Mustard: Various plants of genus Brassica (mustard family) whose seeds are crushed to make a paste.

Mustard family: Also called Brassicaceae or Cruciferacea. Mainly vegetables such as cabbage and turnip.

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N

Nematodes: A class of parasitic cylindrical worms, sometimes harmful and sometimes helpful.

Nutrients:Any substance which nourishes or supports growth. Soil nutrients include nitrogens and phosphates.

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O

Onion: Allium cepa (lily family). Bulbous plant cultivated worldwide as a vegetable. Available September - June.

Orange: Fruit of several south-east Asian evergreen trees of genus Citrus, usually C. aurantium


Oregano: Origanum vulgare (mint family). Perennial Eurasian herb whose aromatic leaves are used as seasoning.

Organic: An organic product is one grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, and with due attention to the whole ecosystem.

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P

Parsley: Petroselinum crispum (parsley family). Cultivated Eurasian herb whose leaves are used as seasoning. Parsley can remove the smell of garlic... Available all year.

Parsley family:Also called Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. Often aromatic plants like dill and caraway, but also carrots, celery and parsnips.

Parsnip: Pastinaca satuva (parsley family). Strong-scented plant whose long white fleshy root is edible.

Pea: Pisum sativum (pea family). Eurasian climbing annual vine, whose edible seeds are found in a long green pod. Available June to August.

Pea family:Fabaceae or Leguminosae. Leguminous plants such as peas, beans and lentils, whose seeds are found in pods. Pea family members tend to fix nitrogen.

Peach: Peach-coloured fruit of the peach tree (Prunus persica, rose family), usually ready in summer. Generally used in sweets like fruit salads and peach melba.

Pear: Edible fruit of the pear tree (Pyrus communis, rose family).

Pepper: Various edible fruits of the genus Capiscum (potato family), including red, green and chili. Also the crushed dried berry of the black pepper used as a condiment.

Pesticide: Any product designed to eliminate pests such as insects from a plot of land.

Pineapple: Ananas comosus. Tropical American plant with a large, fleshy, edible fruit.


Plum: Edible fruit of various tree of genus Prunus (rose family), usually containing a single, hard-shelled stone.

Pomelo: A relatively unknown fruit. Green and sweet, it is associated with the Taiwanese mid-autumn festival - "pomelo" is Chinese for "blessing." It is often used in salads.

Potato: Solanum tuberosum (potato family). A plant native to South America whose tuber is eaten as a vegetable. Available July to May.


Potato family: Also called Solanaceae. Contains peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.

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Q

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R

Radish: Raphanus sativus (mustard family). Eurasian plant whose fleshy root is edible. Available April to October.

Rhubarb:Rheum rhubarbarum. Plant with long green or reddish leafstalks, edible when sweetened and cooked. Ready April to July.

Rose family: Also called Rosaceae. Contains many fruits such as apples, plums and strawberries.

Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis (mint family). Evergreen Mediterranean shrub whose leaves are used as seasoning.

Runner bean: see bean, runner.

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S

Sage: Salvia officinalis (mint family). Also called ramona. Plant whose aromatic grey-green leaves are used as cooking herbs.

Season: When applied to a plant, the natural time for growing in the best conditions and harvesting at the best stage of development.

Soil Association: UK's largest certifier, and a strong campaigning voice for organics.

Soybean: Glycine max (pea family). Southeast Asian plant cultivated for its nutritious seeds and soil improvement qualities.

Spinach: Spinacia oleracea (goosefoot family). Southwest Asian plant whose succulent leaves are edible. (However, it's not as good for you as Popeye would make you believe.) Ready May to September.

Squash: Various plants of genus Cucurbita with fleshy edible fruit.

Strawberry: Fruit of various plants of genus Fragraria (rose family), red, fleshy and often eaten at Wimbledon.

Strawberry Yoghurt Model: A famous 1992 paper in logistics detailing the transport cost involved in producing a pot of yoghurt. The author, Steffani Böge, found that by sourcing locally such costs could be reduced by 75%.

String bean: See bean, string

Sunflower family: Also called Asteraceae, Compositae or the composite family. Contains lettuce and artichokes.

Supply chain:The route of a product from farm to shop. This might involve processing and aggregation.

Swede: Brassica napus napobrassica (mustard family). Also called rutabaga. European plant whose thick bulbous root is edible. Ready October to March.

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T

Tarragon: Artemisia dracunculus. European aromatic herb whose leaves are used as seasoning.

Thyme: Thymus vulgaris (mint family). Aromatic European herb whose white-to-lilac leaves are used as seasoning.

Tomato: Lycopersicon esculentum (potato family). South American plant whose red fruit is edible. Ready July to October.


Transitional: The process of changing from conventional to organic farming. This will typically take at least three years.

Turnip: Brassica rapa (mustard family). Eurasian plant cultivated for its edible yellow or white root. Ready October to December.

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U

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V

Varro: Roman agriculturist. Probably the first one.

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W

Worm: Invertebrate with a long, flexible body, living in the ground. Worms can help the health of the soil: see Worms and Organic Farming.

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X

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Y

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Z

Zucchini: A variety of squash that looks like a cucumber. It is grown near the Mediterranean Sea and is usually used to accompany fried food.

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