You Probably Had No Clue How These Everyday Foods Grow

Peanuts, vanilla, black pepper – these foods are by no means exotic, and you probably use them regularly in the kitchen. But, can you envisage a peanut flower, a vanilla orchid or a peppercorn vine? Keep reading to learn the extraordinary beginnings of these ordinary foods.

Peanuts

Image credit: Jojonicdao

There are several misconceptions about the peanut. Some are unaware that the peanut is a legume, and others believe peanuts grow in trees (like walnuts), or as a part of the plants root (like potatoes).

The peanut is a unique plant as it flowers above ground and fruits below ground. Peanuts are therefore grown in loose, well-drained soil, and do well in dry climates.

After pollination, the peanut flower’s stem elongates, causing the stem to bend and the flower to touch the ground. The stem continues to grow, pushing the flower underground where the fruit matures and produces a legume pod. The pod (the peanut) contains between one and four seeds (or ‘nuts’).

After harvesting, peanuts must be ‘cured’ or dried for about a week. This reduces the moisture level by about 40 per cent, making the peanuts safe to eat.

Raw peanuts with the red skin intact can be used to grow a peanut plant. Simply soak the nut in water for 24 hours, and bury in loose, moist soil. The plant is unlikely to produce peanuts if grown in a pot.

Vanilla

Image credit: Kevin Harber

The delicious vanilla bean grows on an orchid plant native to the wet jungles of Mexico. The orchid family is one of the largest groups of flowering plant species, prized for their beautiful, exotic flowers. The vanilla plant (vanilla planifolia) is the only orchid traded as a food source.

The vanilla plant is a thick vine, which climbs up to 15 metres (50ft) on a host plant. Vanilla requires the partial shade produced by the host plant in order to produce the valuable vanilla beans and the intricate, white flowers.

Black Pepper

Image credit: Scot Nelson

Black, white and green peppercorns all grow on the same flowering vine. The colour of the peppercorns depends on when the fruit is harvested, and whether or not the black shell is removed.

The black peppercorn is native to India, where it has been used as seasoning for thousands of years.

The vine requires a host plant or trellis for support. After harvesting, the peppercorns are dried for up to a week, and then left whole or ground.

If you have tips or experience in growing unusual everyday foods like these, or others, please add your comments below. We’d love to hear about them!

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Annette (58 Posts)

Annette Welsford has a partial degree in Horticulture and a Post Graduate Certificate in marketing. Having lived in the cold, temperate and hot parts of Australia and the UK, she has gained experience over the years with gardening in a variety of climates.

Annette also worked for a fertilizer company where she was responsible for developing, editing and publishing a range of technical manuals on nutrition and fungal diseases for a wide range of horticultural crops including tomatoes.

Annette is Managing Director of Commonsense Marketing Pty Ltd, a publishing and marketing company, responsible for the editing, design and worldwide marketing of the How to Grow books, and other products. Commonsense Marketing also provides expert offline and online marketing consulting and design services to a variety of small to medium sized businesses.


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