The coffee pot is full, there’s vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and the bowl on the counter is full of colorful, juicy fruits. We’re guessing you don’t know where these items come from, and we’re here to tell you it’s not aisle nine at your local grocery store.
Take a minute and see what your everyday food looks like in nature before it’s harvested, processed, and stocked on shelves and produce aisles. You might be surprised!
So, in nature, it looks like cashews grow out of squash, and these protein-packed nuts grow on trees! Who knew? A cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree that grows cashew seeds and cashew apples (the aforementioned squash).
The “seed” is more commonly known as the cashew nut and is widely consumed as a snack, even making its way into many Southeast Asian dishes. Since 2017, Vietnam, India, and the Ivory Coast have been the major producers of cashews.
Almonds are wildly popular. People use the nut for things like almond milk and butter to become healthier and more animal-friendly. But would you believe that these nuts grow on a species of trees native to Iran and its surrounding countries?
Considering how expensive these nuts are, we seem to be better off taking a nice vacation and finding some almond trees to shake. Then again, the seeds have been wildly distributed throughout the world, so we might be able to find a tree a bit closer to home.
Sesame seeds are one of the oldest oilseed plants known, being harvested for well over 3,000 years. But did you know that the seeds grow in pods on what looks like weeds? The flowering plant mostly grows in tropical regions around the world, with some wild relative species occurring in Africa and some regions in India.
We thank the seeds of the “weed plant” for giving us sesames on burger buns, bagels, and all over the rice of delicious sushi.
So, it’s wildly known that vanilla is short for vanilla bean, but that doesn’t mean we knew that it grew on a beautiful flowering plant! Now that we think about it, it makes sense that restaurants put that white flower on vanilla ice cream.
The vanilla flavoring comes from the orchids and was first derived from the Mexican species’ flat-leaved vanilla. Hernan Cortes introduced both vanilla and chocolate to western civilizations in the 1520s.
If you enjoy the taste of the popular cereal, breakfast food, and tea additive, cinnamon, you have been eating the inner bark of several different tree species. The evergreen trees are characterized by their oval-shaped leaves, thick bark, and berry fruit that grows from the branches.
The spice is primarily sourced in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Just remember the next time you say you don’t like vegetarian options, you are literally eating a tree whenever you have cinnamon.
Contrary to popular belief, pineapples do not grow on trees. The widely acknowledged fruit grows from the ground, making for one rather prickly garden. Even weirder, pineapple fruit grows out of a flowering plant.
Think Thumbelina. The part where the tiny person grows out of the flower? Well, the pineapple fruit is the tiny person in this scenario. This tropical fruit is mainly harvested in the tropical places of Costa Rice, Brazil, and the Philippines.
These mini cabbages actually grow on stalks that can grow up to 24-47 inches in height. The sprouts can then be harvested one of two ways: either by hand out in the fields or by cutting the stalks and then putting them through a machine. The latter seems faster in our opinion.
Brussels sprouts are native to the Mediterranean region but later were cultivated near Brussels, Belgium. Where you guessed it, they got their namesake.
Even though this looks like a weird mess leaves, the tiny, dark red balls are actually fresh black peppercorns. The peppercorns are harvested and then dried, ground and used as a spice or seasoning on food. You probably have a pepper shaker lying around your kitchen.
Pepper is mainly grown in tropical regions, such as Southwestern India and Vietnam and is considered to be the world’s most traded spice. Not surprising, considering pepper is used as a spice on almost every dish.
The spice saffron comes from the vivid red stigmas and styles, called threads, in the center of a beautiful purple flower. The flowers are harvested, and the threads are plucked and dried out.
Aside from being used as a spice, Saffron is also used in perfume, due to its hay-like aroma. We’re not sure if we would like to smell like hay, but if the spice can garner more of its original flower scent, we could get behind that!
If you’re just learning that cacao grows on trees, you’re not alone. All that matters is that someone thought to pluck the pods, dry and fully ferment the seeds, and make chocolate.
Cacao trees grow in hot, rainy, tropical areas and, in many places, their pods can be harvested at any time during the year. It’s like the tree knows that people need chocolate at all times. Just by looking at it, you probably wouldn’t guess it could produce chocolate!
The ground. Peanuts grow on the ground like blackberries. How in the world did someone think to crack open the weirdly-shaped bark-texture thing on the ground and eat what’s inside? The good news is that another name for peanuts is goober, which is exactly what whoever ate the first peanuts friends called them.
Well, we applaud you anyways, sir, or madam. Without your discovery, we wouldn’t have one of our favorite baseball game day snacks!
That Amazonian looking plant is multiple hands of bananas. The gigantic flower makes sense, though, since the banana plant is the largest herb flowering plant. These versatile fruits also vary in shape and color.
While some bananas are yellow, others are green, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The good news is that they are all delicious and can be used to make banana bread even though it’s recommended to use a dessert banana rather than a plantain.
Broccoli is just a tiny tree if the stalk and leaves growing out of it are any indications! Not to mention, it grows out of the dirt floor! We’re not complaining in the slightest. If we’re going to eat a “green,” then we are going to make sure it is the healthiest possible food.
What can be healthier than something that sprouts leaves? Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C and vitamin K.
Apparently mustard isn’t something that originally comes from the condiments aisle of your local grocery store. It is, in fact, a pretty yellow flower that is harvested for its seeds. The seeds are then mixed with water and vinegar to create that yellow stuff we like to put on hot dogs, hamburgers, and other sandwiches.
As the condiment is, the plant is very versatile. The seeds can be pressed to make oil while the leaves are also edible and taste great in a salad.
Overtired college students and anyone in the workforce can thank a little something called coffea. Or, as we like to call it, the flowering plant that gives us coffee beans and therefore the energy to function.
Weirdly enough, coffee beans come from various species of small trees and shrubs, mainly found in Africa and Asia. Not surprisingly, the coffee plants are considered to be one of the most valuable and wildly traded commodity crops.
Sorry to inform you, but the pistachio is a tree and not a nut. It is a small tree that originated in Central Asia and the Middle East. What the general population knows to be a “pistachio” are actually seeds from the trees.
Gaining that knowledge makes us want to find a big bag of pistachio seeds and throw it. Why did no one ever tell us that there is another word tacked onto pistachio? Oh, and that the word is not “nut” but “tree!”
Even though it has “nut” in its name, walnuts are the edible seeds of stone fruit, and therefore not a true botanical nut. The lie-of-a-nut is native to eastern North America and is used in many different dishes, as well as for snaking purposes.
The good news is that the non-nut walnut has been used for things other than food. The walnut husks can actually be utilized as a dye, and if you grind up the nut it can be used as a cleaning agent.
Mangoes are a juicy stone fruit that grows on numerous species of tropical trees and is native to South Asia. They are considered the national fruit of India and Pakistan while growing on the national tree of Bangladesh.
This sweet fruit is used in many different dishes, and if you’ve never had the Thai dessert mango sticky rice, we highly recommend you try it now because you’ve been missing out. Pro tip: never walk under a mango tree; the fruit tends to fall at weird times!
Don’t be startled, but artichokes don’t magically appear in dips consisting of mostly cheese (even though they’re delicious). The native Mediterranean plant is technically a flower that has yet to bloom, but when it does, it sports pretty cool glossy purple petals.
We’re not sure if we should harvest this vegetable for dinner or for our kitchen table’s centerpiece. Probably the former because the edible, fleshy lower portions of the flower that connect to the heart are delicious.
Not to be confused with the flightless Kiwi bird, the kiwi, as people outside of Australia and New Zealand call it, is an edible berry characterized by its hairy brown skin, green center, and tiny black seeds. We’re not sure about your berry knowledge, but this is definitely the largest berry we’ve ever seen.
Weirdly enough, kiwi’s are not native to our friends down under, but rather from north-central and eastern China. Which makes sense, since the original name for the fruit was Chinese gooseberry.