Fruits, Nuts and Veggies You Didn’t Know Were Man Made

Many of the fruits and nuts we enjoy so much today didn’t sprout out of the Earth the way they are. Some were the result of natural cross-pollination by bees, others due to selective breeding with a variety of plants over the course of hundreds of years. But the final product is nothing like what it originally started out as. Here are a couple of fruits, nuts and veggies that you had no idea was man made.

1. Strawberries

The strawberries we eat today are nothing like what their ancestors looked like. They were much smaller and had a stronger flavor and aroma. Hybridization of the modern strawberry started as early as the 14th century by French botanists who managed to create wild strawberries that were 15 to 20 times their normal size, but still very small. The real thing didn’t emerge until July 6, 1764 when Antoine Nicolas Duchesne crossed a female Fragaria chiloensis and a male Fragaria moschata from Chile. Up until this point, botanists didn’t realize that there were both male and female plants, hence their lack of success in the early days of breeding the plant.

2. Oranges

Despite the many varieties of oranges that exist today, they can all be traced back to the first orange which was the result of a pomelo crossed with a mandarin. The pomelo is as bitter as a grapefruit, the mandarin on the other hand is really sweet. You put these two together and you get a fruit with a slightly sweet and sour taste. Many people often falsely assume that the mandarin is a variation of the orange due to its color. But as mentioned earlier, the mandarin is the ancestor of the orange, not the other way around.

3. Carrots

Carrots didn’t always have that bright orange coloring; they were either white or purple and most likely inedible. The carrot we enjoy is actually a hybrid of the yellow carrot which descended from the white carrot. The earliest-known ancestor of the modern carrot appeared in Persia sometime during the 10th century. As mentioned above, they were most likely white in color and as the Persians continued to selectively breed the carrots with the biggest roots, they mutated to purple, then yellow and finally settled on orange. Further selective breeding influenced their flavor and made them more edible. 

4. Peanuts

Modern peanuts are the descendants of two earlier types of peanuts: the Arachis ipaensis found in Bolivia and the Arachis duranensis native to the Andean valleys between Bolivia and Argentina. Given their distant location from each other, there was zero chance of these plants cross breeding naturally. It was the earliest settlers some 10,000 years ago in South America who took the Arachis duranensis from the Andean valleys with them as they migrated to Bolivia. Once in their new location, it was the bees, not the settlers who cross-pollinated the two peanuts to create the new peanut.

5. Bananas

Bananas also had a wilder origin: they are the hybrid of the wild Musa balbisiana, which had a pleasant taste but too many seeds and the Musa acuminata species, which had a fleshy inside but a not so pleasant taste. Both fruits were naturally crossbred with each other in the forests of South Asia. However, because the resultant banana was sterile, humans eventually learned how to create new trees by replanting the shoots. They played around with selective breeding and only replanted the bananas with the more favorable traits which is how we have the modern banana.

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