As is often discussed on this blog, the world of plants is an extraordinary place full of mystery and wonder that continues to infatuate botanists and scientists to this day. In this world, flowers are revered for their beauty and aromas, or reviled for their poisons. There are plants with such extraordinary survival abilities that even the world’s harshest climates can’t kill them off. Plants are intelligent, they can seemingly live forever, and they continue to reveal themselves and their nature to us in strange and unbelievable ways.
It should come as no surprise then that despite living in the age of information, that plants still have the ability to amaze us. For instance, if someone were to ask you a simple question like “Where does a pineapple come from?” the answer should be easy. Many of us pass the fruit walking through the produce aisle at the grocery store. “It’s a tree, obviously… Right?”, we would say. Not so fast.
In this article, we explore six familiar fruits and vegetables that astounded even us (the plant people) when we found out where and what they came from. To quote Phaedrus, “Things are not always what they seem,” and that holds true for this list of familiar but unfamiliar fruits, vegetables, spices, and more.
Pineapples grow on trees, right? Nope. These delicious fruits come from an herbaceous perennial plant with sword-like stems that jut out from a main central stem where the flower, or fruit, grows. Once you see where these common fruits actually come from, there’s no going back.
Fun Fact: The pineapple comes from the same family as the bromeliad plant called Bromeliaceae, which is a popular decorative plant used in interior and exterior landscaping.
When you Google “Kiwis grow on,” the first search that appears is “trees,” and again, this is incorrect. It seems as though people have a default belief that all fruits grow on trees. In actuality, the kiwi fruit grows on woody vines that can grow up to 20 -30 feet long and generally require a trellis or lattice type system to support the heavy vines.
Fun Fact: The native people of New Zealand do not get their name from the kiwi fruit, but rather, from the adorable flightless bird also called the Kiwi.
Grown throughout Europe and named after the capital of Belgium (Brussels), these palm-tree shaped plants have one of the stranger or more awkward growth patterns on our list. The prepared sprouts that you find in the store may have a very cabbage-like appearance, but they sure do not grow like cabbages. Rather, the individual sprouts mature on thick green stalks that grow vertically straight out of the earth. It’s truly an interesting sight to behold.
Fun Fact: The smaller the sprout the sweeter it will taste. The larger the sprout the more it will taste like cabbage. Also, for the record, the correct spelling is Brussels Sprouts, not Brussel Sprouts.
You likely know that Saffron is a rare spice, but you may not have known that it’s the most expensive spice in the world per ounce and that it’s picked from the Crocus sativus flower. The tiny red filaments are the flower’s styles and stigmas, which are always hand-picked. The difficult nature of harvesting the flower plays a significant role in the spice’s renowned costliness.
Fun Fact: Saffron can cost up to $315 per ounce or $5,040 per pound.
The Pitaya, or Dragon Fruit, is truly one-of-a-kind. With a pink and lime green exterior and white core with black speckles, the fruit simply looks exotic by nature. What’s even more fascinating about this already amazing fruit is how it grows. The Dragon Fruit grows not on a tree, a vine, or a bush, but a fruit-bearing form of cactus native to the Americas.
Fun Fact: The cactus flower that produces the dragon fruit only blooms one time before withering away to bear its fruit. The flower blooms in the evening, is pollinated, then wilts within hours.
Based on the name alone, you may conclude that the peanut would be part of the nut family and grow from a tree-like almonds, walnuts, or pecans. But despite its name, peanuts are not actually nuts. They belong to the legume family.
Peanut pods grow underground in thick bunches, while the leafy green plant and flowers grow above ground. Peanuts mature underground but are considered the plant’s fruits rather than roots.
Fun Fact: Have you ever wondered how many peanuts it takes to make a jar of peanut butter? The National Peanut Board says that it takes approximately 540 peanuts to make one jar of the good stuff.
As this article has shown you, the world of plants is an amazing place. If you enjoyed this article then we suggest you continue reading Are Plants Intelligent? Science is beginning to think so.