French Language Blog

How do you feel about French vegetables? Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in Vocabulary

When you were très jeune (very young), did you enjoy eating all types of vegetables, or only a select few?

Did you have the kind of dream parents who indulge you with the luxury of choosing what you want to eat, or did they force-feed you toutes les légumes sans exception (all the vegetables, no exception) because -they always said- “C’est très bon pour ta santé” (“It’s very good for your health”), “alors finis ton assiette !” (“so finish your plate!”)                        “Finis ton assiette !” (“Finish your plate!”)

Today, we’re going to expand for a bit your knowledge and your vocabulary about les légumes, the ones that you already know and the ones you still don’t, so that you can turn into une vraie “grosse légume” about the subject.

What is a “grosse légume” in French? Not exactly the same idiomatic meaning in English. En anglais, to become a “vegetable” means pretty much to become “brain dead”, either because of a tragic accident, or because of old age (remember the argot expression “gaga” from “More French Slang! B.A.-BA de l’Argot: “Lettre G” (1ère partie)”?

In French, to become a “grosse légume” actually means to become a “big shot.”

So here you go, devenez unegrosse légume” sur ce sujet (“become a big shot on the subject of vegetables)!

Before anything, what you have to know first is the main categories of les légumes.

The first category is la catégorie des légumes tiges (stalk vegetables), such as l’asperge (aspargus), la pousse de bambou (bamboo shoot), le fenouil (fennel), or les crosses de fougères (fiddleheads.)

What a Pousse de bambou (bamboo shoot) looks like

Les crosses de fougères (fiddleheads)

Another category of légumes is called les légumes bulbes (bulb vegetables), which contain egregious anti-fresh breath “stars”, the one and only oignons (onions.) Among les oignons, you can distinguish between les oignons rouges, jaunesblancs, verts (red, yellow, white, green), and les oignons à mariner (pickling onions.)

Les oignons à mariner (Pickling onions): Not your usual onions, but still not very “breath-friendly” either

Other légumes bulbes are the alleged “vampire’s Enemy Number One”, c’est-à-dire l’ail (namely, garlic), as well as les poirreaux (leeks.)

A third category of vegetables is known as les légumes tubercules (tuber vegetables.) The most famous one is certainly les pommes de terre (“the apples of earth”, literally, which happens to be the name of potatoes in French.)
La patate douce (the sweet potato), of course, also belongs to this category. Other légumes tubercules you may never have heard of are le jicama (same name is English, “jicama”), or le manioc (cassava.)

Voici un jicama (non, pas pyjama)

The légumes that most people have no problem with in general are most likely les légumes feuilles (leaf vegetables.)

Have you ever met someone who hates eating lettuce, for example?

Some of the légumes feuilles are le chou (cabbage), the endive, and the all-too-funny sounding in French pissenlit (dandelion.)

Une Endive

Finally, nous devons aussi mentionner (we ought also to mention) les légumes fruits (fruit vegetables), such as the “fruit that became a vegetable”, la tomate (tomato), les olives, le piment (hot pepper), le cornichon (gherkin), l’aubergine (eggplant), les courgettes (zucchini), and finally the Halloween all-time fave’, la citrouille (pumpkin)!


Finally, nous finissons le bal des légumes (we end the “vegetable party”, so to speak), with les légumes racines (root vegetables), which I’m rather sure may include a handful of no-nos for many enfants (kids), such as la betrave (beet), la carotte (carrot), and le navet (turnip.) Le navet probably should deserve a special place within the French vegetebles “hall of shame”: No wonder that the word “navet” itself also means in French a “Turkey”, i.e. a technical word among movie critics to designate a very bad movie —with an unbearably destestable taste!

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  1. Cynthia:

    How very seasonable and lovely! I like how you’re into fall. Those fiddle things that curl up are fun to look at and good to eat. What a cute pumpkin!

  2. Jennie:

    J’adore la citrouille psychopathe! J’aime beaucoup le jicama (avec du citron vert- lime- trop bon!) mais j’adooooooooore les lattes citrouille epicee (pumpkin spice lattes). En automne, mon truc prefere du monde. Miam.

  3. Helen:

    Ces legumes sont tres inhabituels)))je prefere broccolis et aubergine