Plant To Plate: We’re Showing You What Our Favorite Foods Look Like Before They’re Harvested

author photo or placeholder
By: Lilli Keeve | Published: Mar 01, 2023

Most of us probably don’t know where a lot of the food that we consume comes from. While we hope that our produce is fresh and sustainably sourced, most people probably don’t register that the journey of the food to our plates is not easy! Actually, it’s rather long and complex. We can almost get any fruit or vegetable that we want at any time of the year. Yes, we are definitely spoiled. 

Source: Tom Stoddart/ Getty images

Pistachios Are Actually Fruit

In reality, pistachios are not a nut but fruit. We take the fruit from a tree and eat the seed hidden inside. Called a “drupe,” this kind of fruit comes from the same family as peaches and cherries. 

Advertisement

Source: manitas_aegina/ Instagram

Despite how tempting that sounds, we recommend that you don’t try and grow your own pistachio tree. Remarkably, it can take nearly a decade to grow a decent amount of pistachios, and some trees even reach their growth peak at 20 years. We find it crazy that some people wait that long to just get one bite out of this fruit!

Kiwis Aren’t What They Seem

Pistachios aren’t the only thing disguised as something else entirely. Kiwis begin their lives as flowers and then turn into the sweet treat people know and love them as being. Also, they aren’t even fruit, they are actually berries. Who would have known?!

Advertisement

Source: Buecherwurm_65/ Pixabay

Kiwis are sometimes called “Chinese gooseberries,” which got the West’s attention during World War II. They were so popular in America that kiwis became a regular export to California after the war was over. That’s some serious kiwi mania. 

Cinnamon Comes From…Where?

Cinnamon is a well-known ingredient, especially for baking. It can pretty much be used on or inside any type of dessert or pastry, and even in warm drinks such as hot chocolate. Cinnamon actually comes from the bark of a tree. It’s funny that we enjoy spicing things up from the contents of a tree!

Advertisement

Source: Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Getty Images

Ancient Egyptians practically worshiped cinnamon, so much so that it was worth more than gold. Not only is it useful for cooking, but it also contains medicinal properties. Oil can be used for an anesthetic. Needless to say, cinnamon has more than one use and many advantageous benefits. 

Bananas Aren’t What You Think They Are

So, don’t be surprised when we tell you that bananas are not a fruit. They actually grow down from huge bushes that can be over 30 feet high. Also, these nutritious and tasty plants are herbs that are from the same family as ginger, with stems that are always face down. 

Advertisement

Source: nottuss/ Instagram

The yellow kind of banana that is the most common is not actually the only type. Amazingly, there are more than 1,000 kinds of bananas in nearly every color of the rainbow! Can you believe there’s a blue banana that tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream? How is that even possible? Our minds are blown!

Star Fruit Does Not Grow On Trees

Star fruit is a popular sweet, juicy snack. Just like bananas, star fruit doesn’t grow on trees, but on a bush. They somewhat resemble flowers, but they certainly taste much better (obviously, we’ve never tried a flower before)! 

Advertisement

Source: [email protected]/ flickr

Surprisingly, they’re quite easy to grow on a bush, and many folks enjoy doing that in Asia. Be careful though – don’t consume too much star fruit because it can be poisonous to those who have kidney problems. This is a friendly reminder to always check in with your doctor before eating exotic and unusual foods. 

Advertisement

FYI: Zucchinis Are Not Giant Cucumbers

This picture is of a fruitful zucchini plant that is quite pleasing to the eye. These yummy veggies grow with big yellow flowers close to the ground, and you can find them in the wild. You can even eat the flowers which are pretty cool if you ask us!

Advertisement

Source: hetharenstuintje/ Instagram

Although we’ve never taken a bite out of the flowers before, people say they taste just like the plant, but slightly sweeter. We suggest you fry these potassium-filled vegetables before you mix them into a meal. The result is a chef’s kiss!

Advertisement

Broccoli Is Grown From A Shrub

We’ve always thought that the heads and stems of broccoli look like big trees! These vegetables are actually grown as shrubs with broccoli in the center. Most people probably thought that these green plants were grown in the ground or are from trees. 

Advertisement

Source: Sandy Huffaker/ Getty Images

The origins of broccoli’s name may come as a surprise (or not). It stems from the Italian word “broccolo” which means “flowery cabbage top.” No machines can actually harvest it – it has to be handpicked, just as in the photo. 

Advertisement

We Can’t Believe It’s Not A Spice

Here’s yet another food whose origins might be a shock for you. Black pepper is not even a spice, it’s actually from the fruit family. Black peppercorns begin their lives as small grapes, and, later on, farmers dry them and turn them into the black peppercorns we can’t get enough of on our meals. 

Advertisement

Source: aslnnyhhm_adhnaisy/ Instagram

Black peppercorns can come in different colors, just like grapes. If you choose the green ones, they become black pepper, while the dark green ones make white pepper. Yeah – both come from the same plant! So wild. 

Advertisement

Sesame Seeds Are Quite Magical

When sesame seeds grow naturally, they look like something from another galaxy. Don’t get too excited because they’re hidden inside pods, just as green beans are. There’s even a chance you could mistake them for okra since they have a similar appearance.

Advertisement

Source: BrieGrows.com

While sesame seeds might be a recent health kick, they’ve actually been around for over 3,000 years. They grow especially well in parts of Africa, which is because they are resistant to dry weather. Needless to say, sesame seeds are incredibly tough! 

Advertisement

Blueberries Are Berry Cool

Blueberries are another plant that changes color as they grow. It’s probably more fitting to call these “white berries” when they’re flowering because that’s the color that they really are! Their bushes can grow over 12 feet tall, and the fruit appears very different from what you see in the grocery store.  

Advertisement

Source: Tom Stoddart/ Getty Images

These ravishingly delicious berries don’t achieve their classic blue color until later in the harvesting process. Blueberries can spoil pretty quickly, so make sure you eat them as soon as possible before they go bad. Or, you can also try and preserve them to make jams and jellies. 

Advertisement

Chickpeas Are Versatile

As a versatile vegetable, chickpeas can be cooked in almost anything. Although, before you blend them into creamy hummus, check out where they come from! They start out in a pod, which is similar to peas. 

Advertisement

Source: botanic.batool/ Instagram

Also, their shape is similar to edamame, and are in the same family. Edamame is slightly healthier than chickpeas since it has fewer carbohydrates. Sadly, they are nowhere as versatile as chickpeas which can be blended into different meals. 

Advertisement

Coffee Beans Are The Reason You Are Caffeine-Addicted

Since they’re called coffee “beans,” you may think that they grow in pods of some sort. They actually look a lot like cherries in real life. While they grow, they are caffeinated but we’d suggest not taking a bite straight out of them. 

Advertisement

Source: cafeiculturadeponta/ Instagram

Although the beans will jolt you with energy, they will not taste pleasant. Before people would turn coffee into the ultra-popular drink that it is today, it used to be turned into something else (kind of like wine). For those who are coffee addicts, just try not to overdose on it. 

Advertisement

Asparagus Grows Right Out Of The Ground

Even though you can buy asparagus in clusters from the store, it actually grows right in single stalks from the ground. Unlike some of the others that grow on bushes or trees, asparagus is unique in that it comes straight out of the ground. Farmers then cut it from the stalk. 

Advertisement

Source: birchden_asparagus/ Instagram

If you want to grow your own asparagus, you will need to be patient. Asparagus needs up to 3 years to fully grow and mature, after which it will yield a harvest every day. It could be worth it since asparagus is full of vitamins and fiber.

Advertisement

Capers Come From An Unlikely Place

Capers are popular in some Mediterranean dishes and are a delicious addition to a host of meals. They look totally different when they grow, which is on a vine with beautiful flowers. And, before they can be used, they have to be pickled.

Advertisement

Source: valcaracciolo/ Instagram

With the lack of vinegar or salt, capers would have a very different taste. If you want to harvest them yourself, go for the flower buds that are a bit larger. The larger buds result in a stronger flavor and will be a great companion to cream cheese. 

Advertisement

Lentils Are Delicious And Nutritious

Lentils are a great source of protein and are really tasty when mixed with rice and vegetables. For those who don’t eat meat, this is a perfect way to get essential nutrients. You may be surprised about how they naturally look when they’re not on your plate.

Advertisement

Source: BalconyGardenWeb.com

They appear more like grass instead of edible plants. People have been enjoying lentils for thousands of years. Lentils originally came from central Asia and dispersed throughout the world. Ancient Egyptians even kept some lentils in their tombs – imagine that!

Advertisement

Leeks Were A Symbol Of Loyalty

The leeks in this image look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book or from some alien planet. However, they are not from a work of fiction or foreign to us. The image actually shows us leeks growing in their natural habitat! 

Advertisement

Source: lleugh/ Flickr

Leeks were an important part of Welsh culture and were used by soldiers as a representation of loyalty to their nation. Of course, a badge would have fit much better. Not only are leeks important to the Welsh, but they also possess antioxidants and anticancer properties.

Advertisement

Artichokes Are Very Versatile

Some people might mistake these purple flowers as just flowers, when they are, in fact, artichokes! Artichokes taste much better when they are cooked. Humans often pick flower buds before they sprout, and we use artichokes in many yummy recipes. 

Advertisement

Source: seed_shack/ Instagram

We’re not sure how likely it is that you will come across another plant as vibrant as an artichoke plant. A word to the wise: if you’re wanting to grow them at home, make sure there is plenty of heat and moisture. Artichokes do the best near the equator region, in locations such as the Mediterranean. 

Advertisement

Vanilla Beans Come In A Beautiful Form

Even though vanilla beans are a spice, they don’t grow in the same way as cinnamon does on a tree. Vanilla beans come from flowering pods tnat produce stunning white petals such as the ones in the photo. The petals are dried out eventually and treated by farmers to turn into vanilla.

Advertisement

Source: Per-Anders Pettersson via Getty Images

It’s another food that you will commonly find in really hot countries, such as Madagasgar, Tahiti, and Mexico. Vanilla has many wonderful uses! Not only do vanilla-scented candles have the best smell, but it also goes really well as a syrup add-on to various or tea coffee drinks, as well. 

Advertisement

Saffron Is Really Valuable

As spices go, saffron is up there with being one of the most valuable ones. It’s delicious and also has many health benefits, including alleviating some symptoms of depression and elevating one’s mood. Saffron also may contain anticancerous benefits. 

Advertisement

Source: Xtendo/ Flickr

Saffron is not something you will typically see growing nearby, and it’s actually quite expensive! One pound of this stuff can cost up to $5,000, a cost that is reflected in the labor time and rarity. The three red twigs (stigma) are the only parts of the flower that are used for the spice. 

Advertisement

Poppies Are A Useful Flower

Remember that poppy field scene from The Wizard of Oz? It always made us want to lie in that magical field. Before the poppy seeds blossom, they look a little strange but are still magical in their own way. 

Advertisement

Source: linka_szminka/ Instagram

When they look like how they are in the photo, poppy seeds are edible and produce a nutty flavor. Scientists extract chemicals from the poppy flower to create powerful painkillers like morphine. Another use for poppy seeds is in bagels which are absolutely scrumptious, especially with butter or cream cheese spread on the top. 

Advertisement

Nutmeg Is A Wonderful And Popular Spice

Nutmeg is a common spice to put in any Starbucks order or warm drink and tastes extra good when sprinkled on top! Have you ever thought about what it looked like before being ground up? Well, it actually resembles a human brain. 

Advertisement

Source: Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images

Manufacturers send shipments of ground nutmeg very quickly so it doesn’t lose its flavor. It’s more efficient to store nutmeg whole since it will last much longer that way. Be careful though – too much can make you hallucinate. 

Advertisement

Dragon Fruit Has A Creamy Flavor

Dragon fruit is most popular in Asia rather than anywhere else in the world, mostly because of its creamy flavor! Although the name is a bit odd, it’s fitting due to how otherworldly and scary it looks. 

Advertisement

Source: imptran16/ Instagram

These vibrant and pink fruits hang near the bottom of the plant, near the lengthy leaves. Apparently, the name came from the legend that they were originally dragon eggs. Well, they do look like they could be from Game of Thrones

Advertisement

Cloves Come From Stunning Flower Buds

It could be easy to mistake natural cloves for a bunch of twigs. However, in reality, they look more beautiful before farmers transform them into the tasty and famous spice we love in our drinks. Cloves come from a tree, but not the part that you may think!

Advertisement

Source: Per-Anders Pettersson/ Getty Images

They are part of the buds (not the flowers) even though you can use the flowers in a recipe. Unfortunately, you have to wait until they turn red before you can harvest them. 

Advertisement

Okra Grows Under A Flower

You have probably caught on by now that the majority of vegetables don’t really grow underground. Okra is no exception! You can devour this tasty vegetable in curry or try it pickled if you are brave enough. Most people probably aren’t aware that okra actually grows under a flower. 

Advertisement

Source: yardveggie/ Instagram

It also comes from the same family as cotton and cacao, though we suggest not eating those directly from the plant. Every part of an okra plant is edible, including the flower. You can press this into oil or use it as a coffee replacement. 

Advertisement

Pineapple

So…pineapples don’t grow on trees. Yeah, we said that. Pineapples really come from massive spiky bushes that are on the ground. They are just as spiky as the top of the pineapples, too, but they don’t taste as sweet.

Advertisement

Source: sunshinestateseeds/ Instagram

Pineapples must have a hot environment for them to thrive, such as in West Africa and Latin America. Even though they look pretty weird, planting them is even weirder. You need to plant the top portion of the pineapple in order to get another one started. Don’t get your hopes up, though! These can take years to bear fruit. 

Advertisement

Mangos Are Vibrant And Juicy

Mangos are probably one of the best fruits to enjoy on a hot summer day. This refreshing fruit has a distinct orange color, but they don’t start out that way. As they continue to grow, they develop more of a purplish color. 

Advertisement

Source: Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s easy to identify when mangos are ready to be picked because they will hang down, nearly ready to fall on the ground. Mangos are another fruit with a vast history, dating back to over 5,000 years in India. Also, they are part of the fake-nut family with pistachios and cashews.

Advertisement

Oh, Almonds! They’re Just Fake Nuts

Here’s another fake nut, folks. We introduce to you the almond. They are part of the “drupe” fruit family because of the way they grow and are closely related to roses. You will know when they are ready to pick when the flowers blossom in a beautiful white shade.

Advertisement

Source: David Silverman/ Getty Images

Despite being beautiful when they blossom, they’re not the best for the environment since they require specific weather conditions. They can be ground to make plant-based milk, but require lots of water. So, the takeaway is that it might not be worth the negative environmental impact to grow these. 

Advertisement

Cacao Has Become More Accessible Than It Used To Be

It’s a well-known fact that chocolate comes from cacao beans, and the natural ones possess a very different taste than what’s in stores. They are nowhere near as yummy tasting and they also look like scary alien eggs. Making chocolate is no easy task.

Advertisement

Source: graemedyk/ Instagram

Cacao beans were first used by the Aztecs thousands of years ago and they quickly spread around the world. However, because it was so difficult to create, chocolate was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. Only recently has it become more accessible to people. 

Advertisement

Pomegranates Are A Super Fruit

Pomegranates are very vibrant and have a lot of nutritional value. The fruits look like the red lanterns you would see at a Lunar New Year festival in China — they taste much better though! These trees have to get the right amount of water.

Advertisement

Source: Tim Graham/ Getty Images

They’re known as a “super fruit” due to their ability to treat diseases, among other health issues. You can find these chemicals in all parts of the plant, all the way from the leaves to the roots. Of course, they are also extremely delicious. 

Advertisement