How Many Fruits And Vegetables Are There In The World?

The variety of fruits and vegetables found around the world is truly astonishing. Many of us are familiar with common produce like apples, oranges, broccoli and potatoes. But there are thousands more intriguing edible plant species that originate from diverse regions and climates.

When you consider the multitude of flavors, colors, shapes and nutritional profiles, it’s clear that fruits and vegetables are one of nature’s most diverse and vibrant creations. Keep reading to learn more about the extensive range of produce on our planet and gain appreciation for the biodiversity that exists.

Estimating the Total Number of Fruits and Vegetables

Pinpointing an exact number of total fruits and vegetables is challenging for a few reasons:

  • The distinction between fruits and vegetables is not always clear-cut. Some plants like tomatoes and cucumbers are technically fruits, but commonly categorized as vegetables.
  • New varieties are frequently developed through selective breeding and hybridization.
  • Wild edible species may not be formally documented or named.

However, examining major databases can provide a reasonable estimate. The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has documented over 390,000 vascular plant species. Of these, around 2,500 are fruits and over 1,000 are vegetables are edible.

While the precise figure is elusive, it’s clear there are thousands of fruit and vegetable varieties in the world. Next, let’s survey some of the diversity.

Major Fruit Groups and Notable Examples

When examining the expansive range of fruits around the globe, they can be divided into several broad categories:

Tropical Fruits

Tropical regions are a hotbed of fruit diversity. Many are exotic species rarely found in temperate climates. Examples include:

  • Jackfruit – the largest tree fruit in the world, native to South and Southeast Asia
  • Durian – known for its pungent odor but sweet flavor, common in Southeast Asia
  • Mangosteen – touted as the “queen of fruits” for its sweet and sour flavor, from Southeast Asia
  • Cherimoya – an oval shaped custardy fruit grown in South America and Asia
  • Sapodilla – a brown round fruit from Central America with a soft texture similar to pear


Berries come in an astounding range of shapes, sizes and colors. Some major types include:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
  • Goji berries – chewy red berries popular in Chinese medicine
  • Elderberries – used to make syrups, jams and wine
  • Cranberries – sour berries commonly used for juices and sauces


Melons belong to the gourd family and include:

  • Watermelons – known for high water content and sweet flavor
  • Cantaloupes and honeydews – spherical fruits with soft orange or green flesh
  • Bitter melons – an acquired taste used in South Asian cooking

Citrus Fruits

Fruits belonging to the citrus family are widely recognized. Some examples are:

  • Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit
  • Kumquats – bite-sized citrus fruits often eaten whole
  • Pomelos – one of the largest citrus fruits, popular in Asia

Stone Fruits

Stone fruits have a pit or “stone” at the center. Major types are:

  • Peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots
  • Cherries – both sweet and tart varieties
  • Mangoes – hugely popular tropical stone fruit


Pome fruits have seeds enclosed in a core at the center. Main examples:

  • Apples – over 7,500 cultivars exist
  • Pears – close relatives of apples, available in many varieties
  • Quinces – marble-sized pomes used in jams and jellies


Figs have a unique sweet flavor and tender skin. Popular varieties include:

  • Common figs – widely cultivated for fresh and dried consumption
  • Smyrna figs – require pollination by a wasp species to bear fruit


Olives are unusual fruits that need to be cured before eating. Main kinds are:

  • Greek olives like Kalamata – famous brined black olives
  • Picholine – popular green French olives

Tropical and Exotic Fruits

The list of unusual and lesser known tropical fruits is endless. Some examples are:

  • Dragonfruit – striking pink fruit with green scales
  • Guava – aromatic tropical fruit popular for juices
  • Starfruit – brightly colored fruit sliced into star shapes
  • Horned melon – oblong melon with yellow spikes
  • Passionfruit – strongly aromatic with aromatic juice
  • Pepino – resembles a melon with sweet fruit inside
  • Jabuticaba – Brazilian fruit that grows off trunks of trees

This overview highlights the tremendous diversity of fruit forms, flavors and origins around the world. Next we’ll survey the extensive range of global vegetables.

Major Vegetable Groups and Notable Examples

Like fruits, vegetables come in countless varieties tailored to different climates and cultures globally. Major vegetable categories include:

Leafy Greens

Some of the most nutritious vegetables are leafy greens like:

  • Spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, chard
  • Bok choy – crisp Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens – staple of southern U.S. cuisine
  • Purslane – succulent leaves valued for taste and nutrition

Cruciferous Vegetables

Known for beneficial nutrients like glucosinolates, cruciferous veggies include:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi
  • Bok choy, napa cabbage and other Asian greens
  • Daikon – large radish popular in Asian cooking
  • Arugula, wasabi and watercress – spicy greens

Allium Vegetables

Alliums like onions, scallions, leeks and garlic add flavor. Notable ones are:

  • Ramps – wild onion prized for its garlic-onion flavor
  • Chives – thin, grasslike leaves used as herb
  • Garlic scapes – curling shoots cut to encourage bulb growth

Root Vegetables

These vegetables grow underground. Major examples are:

  • Potatoes – America’s favorite vegetable with many types
  • Carrots – often eaten raw, grated or cooked
  • Beets – earthy roots eaten boiled, pickled or roasted
  • Jicama – crunchy, juicy tubers popular in Mexican cuisine
  • Turmeric – used dried ground as vivid yellow spice

Vine Vegetables

Vine veggies grow on trailing or climbing vines. Some are:

  • Cucumbers – eaten raw, pickled or cooked
  • Squash like zucchini, pumpkins, butternut and acorn
  • Gourds – assorted hard-shelled fruits like luffa used for tools

Nightshade Vegetables

Coming from the Solanaceae plant family, nightshades include:

  • Tomatoes – one of the most beloved vegetables
  • Potatoes, eggplant, peppers – key ingredients around the world
  • Tomatillos – staple in Mexican cooking
  • Ashwagandha – nightshade valued in Ayurvedic medicine

Legumes and Beans

While technically fruits, legumes and beans are nutritious staple vegetables, like:

  • Lentils – tiny lens-shaped legumes, often split and dried
  • Peanuts – nutrient-rich legumes, popular as snacks
  • Chickpeas and black beans – essential for hummus, tacos, chili
  • Soybeans – processed into tofu, tempeh, edamame and more


Corn is the largest cultivated crop in the world. Types are:

  • Sweet corn – eaten fresh, grilled or boiled
  • Field corn – used processed for flour, cereals oils and more

Unusual and Exotic Vegetables

Like fruits, there are countless exotic vegetables that are less familiar:

  • Fiddlehead ferns – unique coiled fronds as a spring delicacy
  • Nopales – prickly pear cactus pads, common in Mexican food
  • Lotus root – crispy tubers from an aquatic Asian plant
  • Lotus seeds – eaten as nuts, beans or ground into powder and paste
  • Jerusalem artichoke – unrelated to globe artichoke, it has edible tubers

Key Factors Contributing to Diversity

Several key factors have contributed to the vast range of fruits and vegetables over time:

  • Diverse regions and ecosystems – tropical, temperate, arctic, etc.
  • Adaptation to different climates like tropical, arid, etc.
  • Natural selection and evolution over thousands of years
  • Accumulated mutations and cross-breeding
  • Isolated communities cultivating unique varieties
  • Continuous exchange of species through trade and exploration
  • Deliberate hybridization and cross-breeding techniques
  • Genetic modifications for yield, shelf-life, etc.

The extensive biodiversity results in myriad options to meet nutritional needs globally. It provides resiliency in food systems when certain crops fail. Appreciating and maintaining this diversity is crucial for the future.

Initiatives to Protect Fruit and Vegetable Diversity

With industrial agriculture and homogenization, more initiatives aim to conserve heirloom and wild edibles. These include:

  • Seed banks to preserve rare seeds and breeds
  • Community gardens growing heritage and indigenous species
  • Organizations like Slow Food promoting biodiversity
  • Supermarkets offering a wider range of exotic produce
  • Chefs featuring forgotten native ingredients on menus
  • Home gardeners planting heirloom fruits and vegetables

Preserving biodiversity ensures continued variety in flavors, nutrition and resilience against disease. Prioritizing this diversity is vital for sustainable food systems.

The Future of Fruit and Vegetable Diversity

Advancements in transport, breeding and biotechnology are reshaping fruit and vegetable diversity. Some trends are:

  • New varieties emerging through hybridization and bioengineering
  • Wider availability of exotic and ethnic produce globally
  • Patenting and licensing of new hybrids and GMOs
  • “Superfoods” entering mainstream markets and diet trends
  • Revival of ancient species like ancient grains and purple carrots
  • Increasing focus on nutrition density over yield
  • Climate change effects on production regions
  • Higher costs associated with organic and heirloom produce

The future will likely see continued influx of new varieties along with revived interest in traditional species. Sustaining biodiversity while utilizing technology will be crucial.

Appreciating the Astonishing Diversity

Vegetables and edible plants across the globe. It’s estimated that we utilize only about 30-50 common species today, out of thousands available.

Exploring and celebrating the lesser known, underutilized and wild species allows us to experience more flavors, appreciate regional cultures, and support biodiversity. Discovering new fruits and vegetables reconnects us to the marvels of nature and diverse food traditions around the world.

The vast amount of fruits, vegetables and edible plants on Earth is an aspect of nature’s abundance we should never take for granted.

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