There is a long journey from the field to the table for the food that we eat, but do you know where most of it comes from? With preservation techniques and quick transport, people in Minnesota can have pineapples even in the dead of winter. But being so far removed from our food, most of us have no idea what it looks like when it is growing in nature. There's an entire world of crazy food out there, and you will be shocked to find out how things look in their natural state.
We Always Thought Pineapples Grew On Trees
While most of us know what pineapples look like in their natural form once they get to the grocery store, we had no idea they grew in fields like this. Pineapples sprout from spikey-looking bushes in the ground and the fruit is in the middle of the plant.
Most pineapple plants are found in Latin America and West Africa, but Europe gets their supply mostly from Costa Rica. They are tropical fruit, so they thrive in warm weather. It is unique because most fruit grows in trees besides berries.
Why Do Sesame Seeds Look More Like Okra?
If you are like us, you probably have never seen sesame seeds in their natural form. They some from sprout plants that grow straight up out of the ground inside little pods. The plants also have white flowers on them, so you would never be able to tell that there are sesame seeds inside.
Sesame seeds are the oldest oilseed crops and have been domesticated for over 3000 years. Most of the plants are native to sub-Saharan Africa, and they are tolerant to drought-like conditions, growing where most other crops would fail.
Artichokes Would Make A Beautiful Centerpiece
If you don't harvest artichokes, they grow these stunning purple flowers with feathery tops. The part that we eat is the flower buds before they bloom, and the budding artichoke is a cluster of many small budding flowers. Who knew this could be so gorgeous?
Most of the world's artichokes grow in the Americas and Mediterranean region. We wonder if you can buy these in a flower shop. They are so vibrant, and we can't think of another flower that is similar to this bright purple color.
Wasabi Is Like Any Average Plant Until You Taste It
The spicy spread that can clear your sinuses in an instant if you eat even a small amount is hard to recognize in its original form. It starts as a plant that is actually pretty hard to grow because it needs cool weather with shade because it can't tolerate direct sunlight.
Surprisingly, what you buy in the store probably isn't real wasabi. Because of its scarcity, most of the wasabi pastes and powders you see in the store are a combination of horseradish, Chinese mustard, food coloring, and other ingredients.
Pistachios Look More Like Mangos
While you might be confused because pistachios are green, this is what they look like in nature. Pistachios grow in clusters on trees and take a whopping seven to ten years to get a significant production. The peak production for these trees is reached at 20 years.
After they are harvested, pistachios are dried and dry roasted or processed in machines. We would have never thought that these red pods would turn into those vibrant green nuts that go into so many dishes.
Peanuts Actually Have Yellow Flowers On Them
If you passed a peanut plant, you would probably never know it had peanuts on it because they grow under the ground and look like pretty yellow wildflowers above ground. However, when you pull those flowers up by their roots, you can reveal little bulbous peanuts.
Peanuts grow in warm climates like Asia, Africa, Australia, the Americas, India, and China. Contrary to popular belief, peanuts are not nuts; they are vegetables and belong in the legume family. They require 120 days to mature before they are ready to be harvested.
Mangos Start Out Purple Before They Turn Orange
Although we primarily relate mangos to their bright orange and yellow color, they are actually a mix of green and purple before being harvested while they are growing. Mangos grow on trees in enormous clusters and weigh down the tree branches when they are ready to be picked.
Mangos are actually related to cashews and pistachios and first appeared in India over 5,000 years ago. Although they are a staple in Africa and Asian countries, mangoes are still considered exotic in America.
Vanilla Bean Is Produced From Gorgeous White Flowers
Like many foods on this list, the vanilla bean is also a flowering plant with white flowers that produce long pods. These pods are treated and dried, and that is the state we usually see them in. Most vanilla is grown in Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti because they are close to the equator.
After the pods are dried and treated, they are used in the natural dried fruit form or turned into vanilla extract. Vanilla has various uses, from baking to fragrances, making it the second-most expensive spice after saffron.
Kiwis Start As Flowers Before They Turn Into Fruit
Unlike some other foods on the list, kiwis start as flowers that hang on a vine and grow along trellises before turning into kiwis. Once the flowers bloom into fruit that hangs down, they are ready to be harvested. They are classified as berries, and some people call them Chinese gooseberries.
Kiwis first became popular in China and New Zealand before being introduced to the British and American servicemen stationed in New Zealand during World War II. Then they became a common export to the UK and California.
No One Would Ever Guess That These Are Chickpeas
Most people know chickpeas or garbanzo beans in the form of hummus, but before they are blended up and mixed with oil and spices, they have to grow in nature. Chickpeas grow inside fuzzy green pods like these, and would you ever guess that this is where hummus starts?
They look more like edamame in those pods because chickpeas are not green once removed from the pods. It's incredible how this turns into one of our favorite meals, dipping sides, and general favorite foods. We are shocked to see what they look like in the wild.
Cashews Look More Like Mushrooms Than Nuts
Before cashews are harvested, they look similar to the dancing mushrooms in Alice in Wonderland. Cashews grow on trees that produce cashew apples, then the nuts grow out of the apples. The apple is a light red to yellow color, and the pill can be processed into a fruit drink or liquor.
Every part of the cashew has a purpose. The shallow of the cashew seed can be used in many applications, including lubricants, waterproofing, painting, and, starting in World War II, arms production. Did you know that cashews could be used for so much more than food?
Almonds Grow Out Of Flowering Trees
Native to Iran, almonds grow from flowering trees. The little flowers turn into pods, and inside those pods are the almonds. When passing an almond grove, the trees are a sight to see when the flowers bloom because it is a field full of white flower trees.
Almonds need very hot weather and cool winters to grow correctly. They are actually in the rose family and often called "the queen of the rose family." The fuzzy hull around the nut feels like a peach because they are also related. Almonds have many relatives.
Saffron Is Just As Beautiful In It's Natural State As It Is In Spice Form
Saffron comes from exquisitely bright purple flowers, and the part that is turned into a price is in the middle of the flower. The saffron stems are pulled out of the flower and turned into the most expensive spice. It goes from these bright flowers to a bright red spice.
Today, Iran produces 90 percent of the world total for saffron for $5,000 a kg or higher. Saffron has many health benefits, such as improving your mood or treating depressive symptoms. Saffron has also been thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
Blueberries Should Be Called Whiteberries
If you have ever gone blueberry picking, you will know that they grow on bushes. You might not know that the bushes can reach up to 12 feet tall and that blueberries start out as little white flowers. When you see them in the grocery store, they look nothing like this.
While it is one of the only naturally blue foods in color, that pigment doesn't appear until the berries are ready to be harvested. Native Americans used to smoke their blueberries to preserve them for winter because they don't stay fresh for a long time.
Who Knew Cinnamon Is Just Dried Tree Bark?!
As one of the world's oldest spices, did you know that it comes from the inner bark of several tree species? Cinnamon trees grow up to 60 feet, and in ancient Egypt, cinnamon was valued more than gold in the way saffron is today.
The bark of cinnamon is one of the few spices that can be consumed in its raw state. Cinnamon has been used in medicine for centuries, and oil extracted from it was used as a local anesthetic and antiseptic by dentists.
Cranberries Actually Grow Underwater
If you have ever seen an OceanSpray commercial, you will know that cranberries grow in bogs off of evergreen dwarf shrubs. These shrubs are partially underwater and bear flowers that become little pieces of fruit. However, the bogs are not flooded year-round.
It takes 16 months to grow cranberries, and most of them are grown in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Washington. Only five percent of cranberries are sold fresh because they have an extremely bitter taste in their raw state.
Cacao Looks More Like A Giant Bug
Cacao, which is what chocolate is, looks nothing like chocolate in its natural state. Cacao is grown on a tree that produces these creepy-looking giant pods. The cacao beans are found inside the pods, and then they are processed to make things like chocolate.
These trees are native to Central America, but the largest producer of cocoa beans in 2018 was the Ivory Coast. We would never look at this and think, "mmm, this will one day be a delicious Godiva chocolate." It seems more like the chubby caterpillar from A Bug's Life.
We Always Thought Poppy Seeds Came From Fields Of Bright Red Flowers
When we think of poppy flowers, we picture that scene in The Wizard of Oz where they all fall asleep in the poppy field. Well, the seeds you find on bagels actually come from those flowers, and before they bloom, they look like this.
Poppy seeds come from the opium poppy flower, which provides us with painkillers like morphine. However, by themselves, the seeds give a nutty flavor and nothing more. You can't get an opium addiction from eating too many poppy seed cakes or bagels.
It's Hard To Recognize Coffee In Its Natural State
Like chocolate, coffee is also something that looks completely different in its natural form. While most people think of coffee starting out as beans, they look more like cherries. These bright-colored fruits are packed with a caffeine punch, but you probably wouldn't recognize them.
Surprisingly, you can eat coffee cherries as an energy-rich snack. Early on, people would ferment the pulp into a wine-like drink. And just in case you were wondering, it is possible to overdose on coffee, but you would have to drink about 30 cups in a concise period to get close to a lethal dose of caffeine.
Bananas Don't Actually Grow On Trees
Contrary to popular belief, bananas don't actually grow on trees. Instead, they grow on enormous herbs that can reach up to thirty feet tall. The herbs bloom with purple flowers that conceal huge banana bunches. When they grow, they're always stem-side down.
There are many different types of bananas, and one uncommonly known kind is one that grows blue before turning yellow when it's ripe, and it tastes like vanilla ice cream. There is so much you probably never knew about them.
Shake A Quinoa Stalk To Get Those Super Grains
Quinoa is quickly becoming a popular and healthy alternative to other grains. It grows on a large stalk that resembles a fuzzy flower. To get the actual food, the stalks are shaken to loosen the seeds. In their natural states, the seeds are very bitter.
After the seeds are removed from the stalk, they are rinsed to remove that bitterness. Quinoa is rich in protein, fiber, and many minerals that other grains don't have. Because of their popularity, the price for quinoa crops tripled between 2006 and 2014.
Pomegranate Trees Look Flimsy Before The Fruit Starts Growing
Interestingly, pomegranate trees look scrawny, but their branches grow heavy with delicious fruit before the harvest. These trees need dry soil, and if they get too much water, the tree becomes diseased. Despite their large size, they are part of the berry family.
The fruit, flowers, bark, roots, and leaves of pomegranates contain chemicals such as polyphenols that can be used to treat a number of diseases. They are a super fruit in every meaning of the word, and they taste quite delicious too.
Nutmeg Looks Like A Human Brain
Most people are used to seeing nutmeg ground up in a small container at the store. It is typically finely ground and perfect for sprinkling on the top of a latte. However, in its original form, nutmeg looks more like a human brain.
In very large quantities, nutmeg can have hallucinogenic effects, but we don't know anyone who is trying to consume that much nutmeg in one sitting. While the whole nutmeg can be stored indefinitely without losing flavor, ground nutmeg loses its flavor rapidly.
Asparagus Grow In Individual Stalks Like Carrots
Did anyone else think that asparagus grew in clusters, or was that just us? While many vegetables grow on bushes or trees, asparagus is different because the veggie sprouts straight up from the ground in individual stalks.
Asparagus can take between two and three years to mature, and after that, there is a daily harvest. While it might make your pee smell funky, it is delicious and a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K. It is also good for digestion and weight loss.
Star Fruit Can Be Grown In A Pot
Star fruit might not be widely known across the US despite being found in some grocery stores. These interestingly shaped fruits grow in small clusters on bushes, and you could mistake them for flowers if you were to walk past one of the bushes.
Although it grows in Southeast Asia mostly, star fruit can also be grown in a pot. It's possible that you could have your own star fruit plant to enjoy this delicious fruit. However, if you have kidney problems, you shouldn't eat too much of this because it can be deadly.
Dates Grow On 75 Foot Palm Trees
Who else thought that coconuts were the only thing that grew on palm trees? We were wrong to think that because dates actually grow in large clusters 75 feet up in the air on palm trees. These delicious fruits are native to the middle east, where the climate is very hot.
Between the height and heat in which dates grow, harvesting them is always a challenge. We can't imagine having to climb a ladder in the heat to get this cluster of dates down. That would be one of the last jobs we would want to have during the summer.
Camellia Tea Looks Like A Tropical Plant
It's no secret that tea comes from leaves, but herbal tea such as camellia is a mix of different herbs and spices. The popular calming blend comes from this beautiful flowering tree. They might look like hibiscus flowers, but they make a whole different blend of tea.
We would see these and put them in our hair without any clue that they are supposed to be used for herbal tea. We can imagine finding these in Hawaii while exploring the islands, but they are typically grown in Japan.
Dragon Fruit Looks Like It Could Attack You
Dragon fruit might be a lesser-known fruit, but it is enjoyed for its bright pink skin and creamy taste. If you haven't seen it in a store, you probably wouldn't be able to recognize it in the wild. Dragon fruit hangs low among strange, super-long leaves.
These spikey-looking fruits get their name for a reason because they look like something produced by a dragon. If Daenerys Targaryen is the mother of dragons, are these her favorite fruit? Since the show ended, we may never have an answer.
Capers Look So Much Better In Their Natural Form
Those tiny salty immature flower buds that are often used in Mediterranean cuisine actually come from this flower. Capers grow on a vine of white flowers, and they are harvested before the flowers bloom. They are then pickled in vinegar or preserved in salt to get their taste.
The larger the flower bud, the more flavorful it is, but the texture is a little loose because a flower is ready to burst forth. Add them to bagels with lox and cream cheese, and you have the perfect Sunday breakfast to cure that hangover.
Zucchini Grows With Bright Yellow Flowers
While zucchini is a popular side dish, most of us have never seen what it looks like growing in the wild. The thick, waxy vegetables we pick up in the produce section actually look like this when you grow them in a garden. The vegetable sprouts low to the ground and has bright yellow flowers.
In fact, the flowers that grow with zucchini are also edible, and people serve them fried or stuffed. We haven't tried that, but it sounds quite delicious. Zucchinis also have more potassium than a banana, so it is very healthy to add to your diet.
Like Two Kidney Beans In A Pod
Have you ever heard the expression "two peas in a pod?" Well, did you know that some beans also grow in pods, such as the kidney bean? The type of beans you add to chili come in small clusters inside of long, dry pods.
Who would have guessed that beans also grow in pods like peas? Kidney beans are very good for you because they have helped lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, aid in weight loss, and do all your house chores (we wish).
They Might Look Like Tomatoes, But Persimmon Grow On Trees
Although they look like tomatoes hanging from a tree, they are persimmon fruit. Persimmon trees have thick branches to support the fruit, but some people think they grow on vines. They are mostly found growing in China and other parts of Asia where the weather is right for them.
Persimmon has a sweet taste, but their skin is thicker than you think it would be. It is packed with antioxidants and helps lower bad cholesterol. Additionally, like other orange fruits and vegetables, they also support healthy vision.
Cloves Add Delicious Flavor But Don't Look So Appealing
In their natural form, cloves look more like a pile of mushrooms. The small, fragrant spice is mainly used for baking or warm drinks, but most people don't know that they are actually the buds of a flowering tree.
After the flowers are harvested, they are dried and turned into the spice we know and love. The flowers start with a pale hue and gradually turn green before transitioning to bright red when they are ready to be harvested. They can also be used whole or ground.
Lentils Look More Like Grass With Pods
Lentils are packed with protein and popular with vegetarians who don't eat traditional forms of this muscle-building molecule. However, if you stumble upon them in the wild, you probably won't recognize them from afar because they look like tall grass with tiny pods.
Lentils come in all shapes and colors, and have been found in tombs of Ancient Egyptians dating back to 2400 BC; however, they originated in central Asia. They are used in all kinds of cuisines, but no one really sees them before they are harvested.
Broccoli Could Make A Nice Wedding Bouquet
We have nothing against vegans, but doesn't this look like a wedding bouquet perfectly fit for an extreme vegan? While children often associate broccoli with trees, the part that we eat is actually a flower. The whole plant looks like a large shrub, and the vegetable grows in the middle.
The word broccoli actually comes from the Italian word broccolo, meaning "the flowering top of a cabbage." Surprisingly, there is no machinery to harvest broccoli, so it has to be hand-harvested each winter with a knife that cuts it at the stem.
Walnuts Grow With Many Layers Over The Edible Part
Walnuts look like brains even after being harvested and processed, but who knew there were so many layers to them as they grow? Walnuts grow with a hard shell, and they have another layer outside of the shell that you rarely see unless you harvest them.
Walnuts are actually classified as a fruit despite technically being considered a tree nut. They are the oldest tree food known to man, being traced all the way back to 7,000 B.C. Today California alone produces one billion pounds of walnuts annually.
Arugula Looks Like Any Other Leafy Plant
If we were walking through nature and passed this bush, we wouldn't think it was edible; however, we would be wrong because it is arugula. It might be considered the fancy part of a gourmet salad, but it grows like any other plant or common weed.
Although it looks like a common weed, restaurants will charge you over $15 for a tiny salad just because it has arugula in it. It is tasty, but not $15 worth of tastiness. We still don't know what makes it so special for the high price.
Okra Actually Comes From This Beautiful Flower
While okra isn't everyone's favorite vegetable, you have probably at least seen it fresh or pickled in the grocery store. The green pods are relatively easy to recognize, but you might not notice it in the natural state because it grows alongside these pretty yellow flowers.
Okra is in the same family as hibiscus, cacao, and cotton, and all of those things look much different in nature than what we see in the grocery store. Most parts of the plant are edible, though, including the flower, seeds, and stems.
Leeks Look Like The Plants In Dr. Suess Books
If you have ever wondered what leeks look like when they grow, you probably didn't imagine them like this. The trees have a strange look like truffula trees in "The Lorax." It is not what you would think of for a vegetable, but maybe this is where Dr. Suess got his inspiration.
Apparently, leeks are embedded in Welsh culture, likely stemming from the legend that soldiers would wear the vegetable in their hats to differentiate their allies from their enemies. Imagine someone today running around with a leek in their hat.
Black Pepper Looks Less Intimidating In This State
You would never know that the pepper we sprinkle in almost every dish starts out looking like a bunch of tiny grapes. However, once those are dried, they resemble the black peppercorns we are more familiar with. Black pepper is surprisingly a fruit.
The black pepper fruits are picked when they are green to produce black pepper, and the slightly riper ones produce white pepper. We would never think that these grape-like fruits would make us sneeze uncontrollably.