Plants and food are in a state where they have potential, but currently result in a negative quality of life impact on gameplay. The concept is beautiful, a digital world where a player must survive in the wild, hunt or be hunted, build or be overrun. Sounds like Oregon Trail remade with PVP. Inherently gathering food and water would be critical, both for daily survival and to outlast a siege of unfriendly neighbors.
So where is the negative impact? It lays in the implementation and interaction with other game mechanics. The sad reality is, other than the first 2 hours of game play for a wipe, it just doesn't matter if you die of starvation or thirst. You're either nearby plenty of food or can just throw down a sleeping bag and respawn. In a game where death is frequent and there is no incentive for how long your character has been alive, the penalty for dying, whether inflicted or battle or self administered with the kill command is non-existent. The only time it seems to really matter is if stay logged in while you do something else for a few hours, no matter how much food you ate, you're going to come back and find the non-descriptive death screen awaiting your return with all of your inventory gone.
This is where things are just stupid, yes I mean stupid. The drunk and convinced you can fly if you jump off the balcony kind of stupid. No harm is meant, but going through with the idea just isn't going to work no matter how much you believe in it. Having a game mechanic that can be completely avoided by hitting the perpetual redo button of "kill" but has random consequences for those whose life is not dedicated to Rust is like a Microsoft app where the menu bar is three levels deep with only one option per level. Can we just get rid of the extra clicks and the random your work is now lost already?
Why is the gathering food and eating it extra clicks so annoying? Like many things in Rust, the game is not self-consistent or balanced. Rust has always had a problem with the inventory slot and stacking, but it's rarely as apparent as it is with food or small clothing items. You can jam 10 exterior stone walls into a single slot but for some reason a slot holds a minor amount of candy bars compared to a water jug, and corn / pumpkins just don't stack.
How about moving candy bars to a stack of 50 and pumpkins to a stack of 10? Even better, how about if the stack amount is this high for storage items like the Fridge while staying more reasonable for the player inventory? What about an "Eat All" option to demolish a stack without having to click the mouse like you get money per click. Risk to the player of wasting their resources if they don't need that much food, but removes one of the arbitrary extra steps in the game. The August 16th commit log implies that at least a minor change is coming for corn and pumpkins, but here's to hoping the overhaul is more substantial and impactful.