Fruits and vegetables looked completely different before we domesticated themFOOD See all FOOD posts
You might think that fruits and vegetables as we know them today were always looking the same way, but these pictures prove the opposite. Genetically modified foods (GMO) are gaining more and more popularity among producers these days, because this way they can improve different qualities of plants – as taste, color, resistance to pests, selective breeding etc. Fruits and vegetables also have their evolution which hasn’t started in the recent years, thanks to GMO, but many, many years ago.
Fruits and vegetables today look completely different than they were looking in the past and after 1000 – 2000 years from now on they will probably also look completely different than today.
Take a look at some foods from the past and their present versions.
Giovanni Stanchi (Rome c. 1645-1672). Oil on canvas. 38 5/8 x 52½ in. (98 x 133.5 cm.) / Courtesy Christie’s
The 17th-century Stanchi painting above reveals how the watermelons looked back in time, somewhere between 1645 and 1672. On the above photo you can see how the breeding has changed this fruit trough the years. Some might think that the watermelon in Stanchi’s painting may just be unripe or underwatered, but the black seeds in the painting suggest that it was actually ripe. Such watermelon can in fact be found today as well – check out this discussion on reddit.
photo: Warut Roonguthai
It is believed that the first bananas were cultivated about 10,000 years ago – on the territory of today’s Papua New Guinea. They were also grown in Southeast Asia. Unlike culinary bananas, wild-type bananas have numerous large, hard seeds. Bananas as we know them today came from two wild varieties, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana, which had large, hard seeds, like the ones in the photo above.
photo: Wikimedia Commons
photo: Sabino Parente
No, no this plant on the 1st picture is not an yellow tomato. It is really an eggplant. Throughout their history, eggplants have had different shapes and colours, such as white, azure, purple, and yellow – like those shown above. Some of the earliest eggplants were cultivated in China. Primitive versions used to have spines where the plant’s stem connects to the flowers.
photo: Jan Macario
You would probably never assume that the plant from the above picture has anything to do with a carrot, but it actually is a carrot. The first cultivation of carrot for its storage root is reported to be in the Afghanistan region, approximately 1,100 years ago. The earliest carrots, that date back from the 10th century in Persia and Asia Minor were quite unlike the ones today. They were thought to originally be purple or white with a thin, forked root, like those shown above, but they lost their purple pigment and became yellow, from which orange carrots were subsequently developed.
The North American sweetcorn is another example of selective breeding, that came from the barely edible teosinte plant. The corn, shown on the picture above, was first domesticated in 7,000 BC and it was dry like a raw potato, according to this infographic by chemistry teacher James Kennedy. Corn as we know it today is 1,000 times larger and 6.6 % of it is sugar, compared to 1.9 % in the natural corn, according to Kennedy. These changes started occurring in the 15th century, when European settlers started cultivating the crop.
photo: James Kennedy
photo: James Kennedy
Before they were first domesticated – around 4,000 B.C. by the ancient Chinese, peaches looked more like cherries and tasted earthy and slightly salty, according to Kennedy. Thousands of years of selective breeding has led to increase of 64 times in their size, 27 % in their juiciness and 4% in sweetness.
Fruits and vegetables today are looking nothing like the ones from years ago and they will probably also look completely different after thousands of years from now on. Selective breeding has been done for many years and it will be done in the future, that’s why just enjoy your veggies and fruits. They won’t harm you more than any unhealthy food, for sure!