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Peanuts grow underground and 9 other fun food facts


Photo credit: icrisat.images on / CC BY-NC

When you sit down to a meal or have a snack, do you ever wonder where the fruits and vegetables you're eating come from? Do they grow on a tree, on a vine or in the soil deep underground? You'll be surprised to learn how some of your favourite fruits and veggies are grown.


a flowering artichoke with a purple flower

A globe artichoke after it's bloomed. (Photo credit: RachidH on / CC BY-NC)

"But wait," you're thinking. "That's a flower, not an artichoke." Actually, it's both! This type of artichoke is a variety of thistle that we use as food. We eat it before it blooms into the purple flower — once the purple flowers come out, it doesn't taste good anymore. Artichokes are grown in warm climates all over the world, but particularly in Europe, South America and the United States.


Giant cacao pods hanging off a tree branch

Cacao plant and pods. (Photo credit: Christine4nier on / CC BY-NC)

They might not look like much now, but these pods hold cacao seeds (also called cocoa beans) that are the basis of making the delicious chocolate that's part of your favourite cakes, puddings and candy bars. Cacao trees grow in countries right around the equator such as Ghana and Nigeria in Africa and Brazil and Peru in South America.


someone holding a peanut plant in their hands

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Did you know that peanuts grow underground? That's probably why they're also known as a groundnut. The part of the peanut that we eat is the edible seed of the plant. Although we tend to call a peanut a "nut," they're actually a legume and part of the pea and bean family. Peanuts are grown around the world in countries where there's light, sandy soil and the weather is warm throughout the year — places such as India, Nigeria and the southern United States.


a green pepper vine

A pepper vine. (Photo credit: Drriss & Marrionn on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA)

The pepper you sprinkle on your food starts out life on a tall vine as a little fruit called a drupe. The fruit is harvested and dried and becomes a peppercorn. You get black pepper from the green, unripe drupes. For white pepper, they remove the skin of a fully ripe drupe. Black pepper is native to south India but it is also grown in other tropical countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil.

Brussels sprouts

stalks of Brussels sprouts on a table in a market

Photo credit: @jozjozjoz on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

You might think that because Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages that they would grow on the ground, but they actually grow in a spiral around a tall, thick stalk. They can be picked individually throughout the harvest season or the whole stalk can be cut down at once. Brussels sprouts require cool weather and moist soil and are grown in farms and vegetable gardens all over the United States and Europe.


pineapple plants as far as the eye can see

A pineapple field. (Photo credit: leGuik on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA)

The pineapple fruit grows in a very unique way. The pineapple plant is short, has stiff, waxy leaves and only produces one fruit. To make its fruit, it produces dozens of fruit-producing flowers that come together to form one single fruit that we call a pineapple. In the wild, pineapples are pollinated by hummingbirds or bats. Pineapples are grown in the sandy soil of tropical countries such as Costa Rica, Thailand, Ghana and the Philippines.


a man holding a green vanilla pod on a vine

Vanilla pods in Madagascar. (Photo credit: David Darricau on / CC BY-NC-SA)

Mmmm, vanilla! It's the flavour of cookies, ice cream, cake icing and so much more. Vanilla comes from the fruit — a seed capsule — of the vanilla orchid flower. When it ripens, the seed capsule yellows and opens, releasing its distinctive vanilla smell. Vanilla grown today is pollinated by hand. Vanilla grows in just a couple of countries around the world with hot, humid climates — mainly in Madagascar and Indonesia.


man harvesting the bark of the cinnamon tree in the forest

A cinnamon farmer harvests cinnamon in a sustainable manner in the forest near Lubuk Beringin village, Indonesia. (Photo credit: CIFOR on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

The cinnamon spice that makes gingerbread so tasty comes from the inner bark of the wild evergreen cinnamon tree. When the bark is dried, it curls up into rolls called quills. Cinnamon trees can be found in the forests of countries with hot, tropical climates such as Sri Lanka, Brazil and India.


a cashew fruit and apple hanging off a cashew tree

A cashew tree. (Photo credit: barloventomagico on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

What you think of as a cashew "nut" is actually the seed of the cashew fruit. It grows at the end of a pear-shaped cashew apple that oranges as it ripens. The apple can be eaten and is very sweet. You won't find cashews sold in their shell because the shell has an oil that can cause skin rashes similar to that of poison ivy. Cashew trees grow in the hot lowland areas of tropical countries such as Brazil, India and Vietnam.

Sesame seeds

on the left is a sesame flower in bloom and on the right is an open sesame seed capsule

The sesame flower on the left. (Photo credit: scott.zona on / CC BY-NC) The sesame pod with seeds on the right.

Sesame seeds are everywhere — on bagels, in bread, on sushi, baked into cookies and even made into crunchy snack bars. The seeds grow in a capsule on the sesame flower. When the seeds are ripe, the capsules burst open. Once harvested, some seeds are used also made into sesame oil. Although you can grow sesame plants pretty much anywhere, the ones that produce sesame seeds are grown in warmer countries with well-drained soil such as Tanzania, India and Sudan.