Even if you cook with a lot of fruits and vegetables in your spare time, have you ever really given thought to how the most common food ingredients grow in the wild? When we go to the grocery store, we’re seeing a final product and not taking into account the actual process of growth… or even what part of a given plant we’re about to eat. Fortunately for all those curious minds out there, we’re made a list exploring many common fruits and vegetables that grow in ways you might not have ever expected.
With no further ado, here are 30 stunning photos of how many of our common fruits and veggies actually grow.
If you’re noticing the pattern here, there are a lot of nuts on this list that grow in strange ways—and almonds are no different. Like some of the others we’ve mentioned, almonds grow in little pods beneath some delicate white flowers.
Saffron is a spicy and fragrant herb that can be used to season meat and rice. It’s also one of the most expensive spices in the herb—considering that it consists entirely of these tiny little spores growing out of purple flowers, it’s not hard to see why.
Cinnamon is a very common dessert spice. As it turns out, the powder we commonly use actually results from the dried up tree bark of a tree!
Cranberries actually grow on smaller shrubs, typically grown en masse in bogs that produce little red flowers as well.
Cacao is the source of cocoa and, by extension, chocolate. Though we think of it as a brown powder, it actually grows in these red pods that protrude out of a tree.
Though salted pistachios make a nice snack (and sometimes an ice cream flavor), they actually look pretty unusual before they’re harvested. As this picture shows, they grow on trees in these colorful pods that look a little bit like half-ripened mangoes.
Roasted peanuts, peanut butter cookies, straight peanut butter, you name it—peanuts are one of the most widely consumed and loved nuts in the world. But many people don’t know that the peanuts themselves are actually the underground root part of these pretty yellow flowers.
8. Vanilla Bean
Which ice cream do you prefer, vanilla or chocolate? If you said vanilla, do you know what raw vanilla actually looks like? Vanilla beans are actually long drooping beans topped by these beautiful white flowers. Who knew?
These delicious and tropical fruits are green on the inside and fuzzy on the outside. But did you know they actually grow on the vine just like grapes do?
Cashews are a tasty nut with a chewy and creamy texture to them. In the wild, though, they grow in a very unusual way—the nut part we eat is the bottom part of a cashew apple, which has a bitter taste and is sometimes made into an alcoholic drink.
You may be familiar with this sweet, summery fruit, but did you know that it grows out of these spiky plants sitting very low to the ground? For some reason, I always pictured these things growing on trees.
12. Sesame Seeds
You can find sesame seeds on top of burger bun or processed into an oil that you might use on rice. Still, they actually grow out of these stalk-like plants with little pods at the top.
These pull-apart vegetables can typically be found blended into a spinach dip. In the wild, though, the part we eat is actually the bottom section of these purple flowering plants!
14. Brussel Sprouts
Although not everybody loves Brussel sprouts, they can be pretty delicious when they’re cooked with balsamic. But did you know they grew in these tall stalks that look like jingle bells?
Although these are a little bit rarer in the kitchen, capers make a great addition to an olive tapenade or some salads for their sweet and bitter flavor. But while capers themselves look like shriveled little peas, they actually grow out of these beautiful white flowers.
16. Coffee Beans
The world runs on millions of cups of coffee. Still, we bet you didn’t know that coffee actually grows as little red berries that aren’t all that dissimilar from cranberries.
17. Black Pepper
Just like coffee, black pepper is actually the result of dried peppercorn fruits that look quite a lot like little berries on a vine. Probably not quite what you expected, huh?
As it turns out, mangoes do grow on trees—though the way they do it kind of makes them look like giant berries.
Pomegranate seeds are a great addition to a bowl of yogurt, though they can also serve as a snack all on their own. As it turns out, pomegranates grow on trees quite a bit like apples do.
Although we all know what asparagus spears look like, did you know that they grow straight up out of the ground?
Leeks are closely related to onions and taste delicious in soups. They also have beautiful purple flowers on top of them before they’re harvested.
When we eat celery, we’re actually talking about the fibrous stalk part of it. The overall plant actually has some weed-like plants growing out of the top of the part we might add to a salad.
Similar to some of the other items on this list, cloves are actually the dried up flower buds of the clove tree. They are often used in Indian cooking to spice rice.
Did you know that cantaloupes actually grow on the ground just like pumpkins do? If you thought they might grow on trees, you’re not the only one.
25. Broccoli Florets
Do you eat a lot of broccoli? We’d forgive you if you said no. Still, did you know that broccoli actually has pale yellow flowers of its own?
If you eat a lot of hummus then you’re definitely familiar with the creamy and delicious texture of chickpeas. Still, they look pretty different before they’re harvested—these little seeds actually grow in soft green pods.
As it turns out, paprika is actually just dried red peppers ground up to make a powder.
While the top of the wasabi plant looks like some normal green sprouts breaking out of the dirt, the bottom part is a strangely gnarled looking root that ends up being the paste we eat.
This one is a real shocker. Although we’re used to seeing quinoa as a fine grain, quinoa actually comes off of tall stalks with some beautifully colored flowers on them.
While we actually eat the underground root of the ginger plant, the top of it has little sprouts that are almost reminiscent of wheat.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit more to even the most common foods than we might think. Did you already know the background of all these plants? Do you have more of your own to add? Let us know in the comments area below.