When it comes to food names, the options that best adapt to baby names are herbs, edible flowers, and spices…you know, plant names! Fruits as names are more challenging, and vegetables are usually difficult to pair with baby names. That said, it’s 2023, and practically anything can be a name. Parents are seeking new baby names from all kinds of sources, whether to find ones that align with their values or that will be too rare and uncommon to duplicate in a classroom or on the playground. The sky is the limit!
Here is a curated selection of baby names inspired by roots, grains, beans, and vegetables, including many of the earthy things themselves. For the crunchy, eco-conscious parent or the foodie who wants something completely different and unexpected for their child, this unique garden salad of nature names is for you.
Let’s start with the vegetables that *do* work as baby names, shall we?
- Amaranth is a fine standalone name, but it also gives us Amarantha, Amara, and maybe even Amaryllis. Amaranth is a type of grain.
- Barley – 6 boys were named Barley in 2021. I’m just going to insert a pun about barley counting in the Social Security Administration’s baby name data (the minimum is 5 children)…
- Bean’s name fame comes from the middle spot of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain. Parents with young children may be more familiar with the Ivy and Bean chapter book series, and adults with a dark sense of humor and Matt Groening shows may be fans of Princess Bean in the Netflix cartoon Disenchantment. Either way, Bean is a cute veggie name on its own! For a longer, formal version, consider Beatrice or Albina. Bean would also make a unique alternative to Birdie as a nickname for Bernadette. The aforementioned Princess Bean’s name is short for Tiabeanie.
- Calabash – I included Calabash in my list of names beginning with “Cal,” and I’m still convinced that it’s a cool-sounding name even if nobody is using it. Squash, a more common word for the produce, does not sound cool. There’s also Spanish Calabaza, which applies to both squash and pumpkins.
- Cress makes for a great nature-inspired nickname of Cressida, Christina, Christopher, or Chrysanthemum.
- Fennel – Need a rare ‘F’ name that’s also gender-neutral? Fennel has you covered.
- Hyacinth isn’t just a flower…it’s also the name of an edible bean! Just 16 American girls were named Hyacinth in 2021, but expect that number to rise thanks to Bridgerton.
- Kale – 28 boys. As a men’s name in the U.S., Kale is often treated as the Hawaiian version of Charles, though this is not the only possible origin. It can also be a variant on a German surname relating to cabbages, a variant on a Dutch nickname meaning “bald,” and a Hindi nickname meaning “black” (compare to the Sanskrit name Kali, referring to the powerful Hindu goddess). Additionally, as a women’s name, Kale was one of the three Graces or Charites in Greek Mythology along with her sisters Charis and Aglaia. That version means “beauty,” and today we see the Greek Kale transformed into names like Callidora, Calliope, and Calanthe that ultimately derive from the same root.
- Lotus – Like Hyacinth, Lotus is both a flower and vegetable…in this case, via lotus root. It’s also the name of a sports car brand. 137 girls and 24 boys were named Lotus in 2021.
- Lima – In addition to the bean, Lima refers to the Peruvian capital city and possibly to an obscure Ancient Roman goddess of doorways. I’d only recommend not making Bean the middle name since that’s a little on the nose. 7 girls were named Lima in 2021.
- Maize – This international word for “corn” was given to 23 girls and 10 boys in 2021. Some of those children probably have a unique spelling of Maisie, a Scottish nickname for Margaret that’s picking up steam in the U.S. There are also a few girls named Maizelynn.
- Navy is another kind of legume and a trendy baby name, ranking #452 for girls and rapidly rising. Unisex, it was given to 688 girls and 74 boys in 2021.
- Pearl is a small, sweet type of onion found on Thanksgiving tables. Pearl ranked #751 in 2021.
- Pepper boasts a bright, peppery sound that makes for a great baby name; plus, it’s a surname, so maybe it’s new on your radar of last-names-as-first-names. Or who knows, maybe you love Iron Man’s Pepper Potts? 155 girls and 8 boys were named Pepper in 2021, and 7 girls were named Bell.
- Rhubarb – I feel like this could work as a standalone name, but Rue and Barb are cute too.
- Rye – 53 boys and 17 girls were named Rye in 2021. I wonder how many are named after the bread, the whiskey, or as a variation on Ryan and related names?
- Taro – Taro is both a widely-consumed root vegetable (for example, it’s the main ingredient in poi and a major component of laulau) and a Japanese boys’ name. Like most other Japanese names, Taro’s meaning depends on the Kanji used to write it. Taro is one of Sean Lennon’s middle names.
- Vidalia – While “onion” is a terrible idea for a baby name, a few adventurous parents name their daughters Vidalia each year. Vidalia’s meaning likely relates to names meaning “life, vital” (i.e. Vidal, Vitale, Vitalis), but, as Nancy points out, at least some recent usage is related to a song. 18 girls received the name in 2021.
A few vegetables that might not work as standalone baby names but do inspire some great options include:
- Arugula transforms into Aria, Rue, and Aruna. Avoid Caligula for a person.
- Asparagus doesn’t make a great baby name, but you can name a little Gus, August, or Augusta after your favorite veggie. Other alternatives inspired by asparagus are Aspen, Casper, Jasper, Aster, Aspasia, and Hesper.
- Broccoli – Brock is the most obvious choice for a baby name inspired by Broccoli, though James Bond fans may also consider Barbara or Albert after the producers.
- Brussels – Brussels Sprouts taste a lot better than they used to. If anyone asks, Brussels is a place name too. It’s hard to go wrong with Russell, though.
- Fava derives from the same root that gives us Fabian and Fabiana.
- Lettuce is not a usable baby name, but it’s similar to antique Lettice (pronounced Leh-TEECE), an English name from the Tudor era (1500s). The most famous bearer is Lettice Knollys, a noblewoman and possible secret grandchild of Henry VIII. Sadly, I don’t think Lettice can be salvaged, but there’s always Lettie and Leticia.
- Parsnip – I feel like Parsnip is cute enough for the right child to rock it, but maybe it belongs in the middle spot. That said, for first names Parsnip evokes Parthenia, Parvati, Parthenope, and Percy.
- Pea – This doesn’t work outside the middle name spot for obvious reasons, and unfortunately Sweetpea can sound condescending depending on who says it. However, Cicero is an option which derives from a Latin word meaning “chickpea!”
- Rutabaga – Ruth or Ruthie for short? How about Baker?
I love how Pumpkin sounds, but unfortunately I think it would fall victim to condescension and sexism on a human baby. It’s a great name for a pet!
Do you have any favorite names from this list? Are there any you would add?