English / Spanish Glossary of Edible Plants

The full and expanding original glossary is at Fruit and Stuff.

(PHOTO: Mercado Libertad, also known as San Juan de Dios, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.)

When I moved to Mexico, I was surprised to be offered a number of fruits and vegetables I had never heard of, and, of course, I had to learn new names for foods that were familiar. This list includes the old and familiar as well as the new and exotic. Some plants have different names, depending on countries and regions. I have used American English and Mexican Spanish.


  • almond / almendra
  • aloe vera / sávila
  • amaranth / amaranto
  • apple / manzana
  • apricot / chabacano
  • artichoke / alcachofa
  • asparagus / espárrago
  • avocado / aguacate
  • banana / plátano
  • basil / albahaca
  • bay leaf / laurel
  • beet / betabel
  • blackberry / zarzamora
  • broccoli / brocolí
  • brazil nut / nuez de Brasil
  • butternut squash
  • cabbage / col
  • cactus leaf / nopal
  • cantaloupe / melon
  • carrot / zanahoria
  • cashew / maranon
  • cauliflower / coliflor
  • celery / apio
  • chayote
  • cherry / cereza
  • chia / chia
  • chickpea / garbanzo
  • cilantro / cilantro
  • cinnamon / canela
  • clove / clavo de olor
  • clementine / clementina
  • corn / maiz
  • cucumber / pepino
  • cumin / comino
  • date / dátil
  • dragon fruit / pitahaya
  • eggplant (aubergine) / berenjena
  • fig / higo
  • garlic / ajo
  • ginger / genjibre
  • grape / uva
  • grapefruit / toronja
  • green bean / ejote
  • guanabana
  • guava / guayaba
  • hibiscus / jamaica
  • hominy / maiz nixtamalizado
  • honeydew melon / melón chino
  • jackfruit / yaca
  • kale / kale
  • kiwi / kiwi
  • leek / poro
  • lemon / limon
  • lentil / lenteja
  • lettuce / lechuga
  • lima bean / haba
  • lime / lima
  • mamey
  • mango / mango
  • mushroom / champiñón
  • olive / aceituna
  • onion / cebolla
  • orange / naranja
  • parsley / perejil
  • pea / chicharo
  • peanut / cacahuate, mani
  • pear / pera
  • pecan / nuez
  • pepper / chile
  • pineapple / piña
  • pistachio / pistacho
  • plantain / plátano macho
  • plum /ciruela
  • pomegranate / granada
  • potato / papa
  • prickly pear / tuna
  • prune / ciruela pasa
  • pumpkin / calabaza
  • radish / rábano
  • raisin / pasita
  • raspberry / frambuesa
  • sesame seed / ajonjoli
  • spinach / espinaca
  • strawberry / fresa
  • sunflower seed / semilla de girasol
  • sweet potato / camote
  • tahini / tajini
  • tomato / tomate
  • turnip / nabo
  • walnut / nuez de castilla
  • watercress / berro
  • watermelon / sandia
  • zapote
  • zucchini / calabacita

GOOGLE TRANSLATION: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

An old story that circulates wherever translators gather goes like this.

A Mexican who knew a little English owned a bar in a pueblo near the border. As a rainstorm was approaching, a gringo tourist hustled into the bar. The barkeeper was happy because he knew just what to say.

“Between! Between!” he shouted enthusiastically. “Drink a chair! Here comes the water zero!”  (“Entre! Entre! Tome una silla. Ahi viene el aguacero!”)

Once in awhile, a person will ask me for a word-for-word translation. There may be such a thing, as the hapless barkeeper demonstrated, but the results are often not conducive to effective communication. “Just tell me what it SAYS,” shouts an exasperated client as I try to explain a complex and ambiguous passage.

A translator’s work is to get meaning from the source language and convey the same meaning in a different language. Often, the distance is not great between the words of one language and another language, but sometimes the search for meaning leads to something that is quite different from the source.

Use online translators and bilingual dictionaries with caution, and preferably with adult supervision–someone with enough knowledge of source and target languages to warn you of snafus like these:

  • “Enchufe de los Muebles del Hotel” (Hotel Furniture Outlet)
  • “Meat in your juice” (Carnes en su jugo)
  • “Foot of Lemon” (Pie de Limon)
  • “Hecho en Pavo” (Made in Turkey)
  • “Fresh picture” (Pintura fresca)
  • “Hierro chulo” (Cool iron)
  • “Pope with spicy Mexican sausage” (Papa con chorizo)
  • “To Rome” (aroma)

And from the Chinese translators

  • “Chicken rude and unreasonable” (Jerk chicken)
  • “I can’t find on google but it’s delicious” (Menu item in Chinese)

*“WITHOUT TAILS” (SIN COLAS)

††

BEYOND BORDERS

THE TRUTH ABOUT ACCENT MARKS IN SPANISH

My Spanish teachers liked to show off their advanced knowledge of linguistics with long impressive words like esdrújula, sobreesdrújula, and penultimate. So, I gave up on comprehending those little marks and just did my best to learn words visually, accent mark and all. When in doubt I sprinkled marks randomly like salt and pepper to give my writing that Spanish-ey flavor.

There are many fascinating things that linguists know about language in general and accent marks in particular, but I will not go into that here because if your goal is to speak and understand Spanish in the real world, you can take courage from knowing that most Spanish-speaking four-year-olds and a few two-and-three-year-olds have already mastered more than you will ever need to know in order to reach your goal, and those pre-schoolers have not yet even heard the word esdrújula. If you forego the big impressive words, the facts are really very simple:

An accent mark on a syllable indicates that the marked syllable is to be stressed in the word. So canción will be pronounced something like this: kahnSYON. Well, then, what about all those words that don’t have an accent mark? We can divide those words into two major groups:

  1. Words that end in a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) or the consonants n or s. These words will be stressed on the next-to-last syllable. (Ricardo)
  2. Words that end in any letter other than the ones in the first group. These words will be stressed on the last syllable. (arroz)

Accent marks have a few other uses, such as distinguishing between one-syllable words that are spelled alike but have different meanings, like (yes) and si (if).

They also indicate whether two vowels together make a diphthong (no mark) or should be pronounced individually (María).

Now you know.

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