04/01/2017 8:00 AM AEDT | Updated 04/01/2017 2:23 PM AEDT

We Bet You Have No Idea How These 13 Everyday Foods Are Grown

Cashews grow outside a fruit. Our entire lives have been a lie.


Technological advancements and self-service grocery stores are a double-edged sword: most people don't have to grow their own food, but we're far less likely to know where all our food actually comes from.

Think about it: do you know how cashews grow? Or chickpeas? What about peanuts?

Well, we didn't either. Prepare to be wowed.

1. Cashews

Ah, cashews. We welcome this nut into any nut mix party (particularly if they're salted) and we always complain about the price. If you thought cashew nuts grew in a shell, you'll be flabbergasted when you find out that those cute jelly bean shaped nuts in fact grow outside of a fruit (called a cashew apple -- aww). Only one cashew grows at a time. No wonder they're so expensive.

Tier Und Naturfotografie J und C Sohns
You'll never eat cashews fast again.

2. Peanuts

Thought peanuts grew on a tree like their fellow almond and cashew friends? Delicious peanuts actually grow below the ground, while the top of the plant begins to flower above ground. After harvesting, the shell is removed to reveal those cute little nuts.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Also, peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts.

3. Chickpeas

If you're like us, you've never thought about where chickpeas come from, but the answer lies in its name: peas. Chickpea pods grow on a leafy plant 20-50cm in height. Each pod contains two or three peas, which are then boiled and simmered before heading into those tins we buy at the supermarket.

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4. Cacao

Ever wondered how your favourite block of chocolate or hot chocolate came to be? It all starts with cacao, which probably doesn't look the way you imagine. The cacao tree grows pods and inside these pods are seeds (cocoa beans) surrounded by white pulp, which is removed. The seeds are then processed to produce cocoa mass, powder and chocolate.

Getty Images/Gallo Images
Mmm, chocolate.

5. Cinnamon

If you go outside and look at a tree, you probably wouldn't feel inclined to take off some bark and eat it. But that's exactly what cinnamon is. Specifically, cinnamon comes from the inner layer of bark derived from a variety of trees which belong to the genus Cinnamomum. The cinnamon is then dried (and rolls up into quills) and often processed into powder form for everyone to use in cinnamon buns, porridge, apple pie and granola.

Dinodia Photos
Hey, cinnamon.

6. Vanilla

Vanilla is arguably the most popular flavouring we add to sweet dishes, but not everyone knows how it grows. Vanilla pods grow from orchids of the genus Vanilla, which grows as a vine. When the pale yellow pods are ready to harvest, they are hand picked and cured through various methods, including slow-drying, sweating, killing and conditioning. The vanilla is then sold as a whole pod or, more commonly, in the form of powder, extract or sugar.

Olivier Cirendini
These vanilla pods aren't ready for harvest just yet.

7. Pepper

We don't often think about how our favourite seasoning is made, but the origins of the king of spices is pretty amazing. Pepper actually grows on a tall climbing shrub classified as Piper nigrum. When the pepper shrub flowers, berry-like fruits form and become peppercorns, which are then removed, dried and processed.

Uwe Bauch
Peppercorns come in a variety of colours.

8. Salt

You can't have pepper without salt. If you thought salt just comes from the sea, you're semi-correct -- around 25 percent of table salt comes from evaporated sea water, but the other portion comes from old mines, deposits and ponds all over the world, as well as by evaporating 'solution-mined' brine in pressure vessels. Basically, salt is everywhere around us.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Salt in a sea salt farm ready for harvest in Thailand.

9. Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are everywhere, from bread buns and Asian sauces, to black sesame ice cream and hummus (yep, you can't have hummus without tahini, which is simply blended sesame seeds). But where do they come from? Sesame seeds grow inside pods on a sesame plant, which are dried before the tiny seeds are extracted. Sesame seeds also come in a variety of colours (white, brown, black and red).

David Cavagnaro
See the small, long pods?

10. Saffron

Oh, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. We want you, but we can't afford you. And there's good reason -- saffron as we know it are in fact threads collected from beautiful saffron flowers. THREADS. We're basically eating the inside of a flower, which is pretty damn cool.

Getty Images
The price makes so much sense now.

11. Brussels sprouts

Now, not everyone will be excited about this one because brussels sprouts have a bad rap, but the way these green bulbs grow will make you want to eat them. Maybe. Brussels sprouts are a slow growing vegetable which grow around the thick stalk of the plant. Brussels sprouts come in a variety of colours and are in the same family as cabbage.

Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley
Pro tip: roast these with olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.

12. Artichokes

While you may have guessed that artichokes grow on stalks, you'll be surprised to know that the artichoke is actually a thistle, and that the vegetable we know it as is actually a cluster of many budding flowers on an edible base. We're basically eating a flower before it blooms. Once the buds bloom, artichokes become barely edible.

Ross Durant Photography
Eating flowers since forever ago.

13. Pistachios

Pistachios are the most fun nut to eat. Seriously, you could spend hours cracking open the shells and extracting those delicious morsels. Chances are, though, you wouldn't be able to identify pistachios if you walked straight by them. Much like almonds and pecans, pistachio nuts grow on a tree inside a shell. When they ripen, the shell cracks open (audibly, apparently), and they are then harvested and often roasted and salted.

John Cancalosi
Fascinating stuff.