While vegetables are a staple in nearly every diet around the world, taboos pertaining to vegetables still exist in some cultures for a variety of reasons. Most food taboos regarding vegetables come from religious teachings.
Taboo Vegetables in Jainism
Members of the Jain community are committed to nonviolence, even when it comes to their food. While Jainism is synonymous with vegetarianism, strict taboos still exist when it comes to eating vegetables.
All living beings must be respected and plants can only be consumed by “non-injurious” means. Green plants can only be cut after they have dried in the fields naturally, while ripe fruits can be eaten as they involve no anguish to the plants.
Root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips and potatoes, are completely taboo in Jainism because they grow among small creatures, and uprooting these plants results in their destruction.
Jain monks have never been permitted to boil water, as they knew that micro-organisms existed that would be killed, even hundreds of years before the microscope was invented. This is a clear testament to the immense respect and awareness Jains have for their environment.
Food Taboos: Eating Customs in Yazidism
Followers of Yazidism, a Kurdish religion based primarily in the Mosul area of northern Iraq, have strict taboos against eating lettuce. While this prohibition may seem bizarre to some cultures, the ban is rooted in historical significance.
While no clear explanation exists for this food taboo, some scholars believe it stems from persecution of Muslims by Christians. In the 18th and 19th centuries, thousands of Yazidis were slain in lettuce fields in northeastern Iraq.
Other experts believe the prohibition came from the killing of a 13th century Yazidi saint, when an enthusiastic crowd pelted his body with lettuce.
Buddhism and Avoiding Strong Flavored Vegetables
Many followers of the Buddhist faith avoid vegetables, spices and herbs that are deemed to have a strong flavor, such as onions, chili pepper and garlic. Pungent flavors are often attributed to increasing anger and sexual desire in whoever eats them.
Vegetables and Keeping Kosher
Many authorities that decide which foods stick to kashrut or kosher dietary laws have found that broccoli, raspberries and other plants can’t be adequately cleaned to ensure that no insects or worms are hidden within their many crevices.
Other fruits and vegetables prone to insect infestation include lettuce, cauliflower, strawberries and herbs.
Some strict followers of the Jewish faith avoid many vegetables and fruits to follow the culture’s rigid taboos of eating insects.