Pistachios... kind of look like mangos
January 8, 2020 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Do you know what your produce looks like before you buy it? Well, Do you?
posted by Mchelly (45 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The way I feel after seeing cashews and cacao in their native state is the same as the way Gollum felt after learning about the existence of Oliphaunts: I don't want them to be.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:26 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Apparently you dont see fresh/unshelled cashews bc they contain high levels of the same chemical found in poison ivy, in its highest concentration right around the nut.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:34 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I knew most of these except for the pistachios and sesame seeds. I mean, I realized sesame seeds were seeds, but had never even thought about the plant they come from.
posted by briank at 9:40 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend loves watching a YouTube channel that features an Asian couple traveling all over and trying different food (usually either street market food or things out of unusual vending machines). Watching a street food episode recently, she looked at a giant... fruit pod ...thing that the vendor was dissecting, throwing fruit to one side and stringy husks to the other and asked "is that... is that what jackfruit really looks like?"

Yeah, the things our food comes from can look super weird before processing.
posted by hanov3r at 9:45 AM on January 8


I mean, I realized sesame seeds were seeds, but had never even thought about the plant they come from.

I like that they have opened up the sesame pods to show the seeds within. Open. Sesame.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:46 AM on January 8 [32 favorites]


"is that... is that what jackfruit really looks like?"

I once bought a whole one on the side of the road in India for the novelty of it - not only are the spikes sharper than they look but the whole thing ends up coated in a kind of sticky sap that is incredibly hard to wash off.

It was a 40 Rupee lesson in why people buy the prepared flesh (and not only because a whole one can weigh 25 lbs).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:09 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Artichokes are so pretty! I had no idea!
posted by mittens at 10:17 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]




My mum harvested peanuts as a girl back in the 1930s. She said it was the most back-breaking labour she ever did, pulling up the peanut plants and then shaking them for the peanuts to fall off.
posted by angiep at 10:25 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


My, Earth certainly is full of things!

(I like this)
posted by dinty_moore at 10:32 AM on January 8 [10 favorites]


Our favorite cousins took a trip around the world in 2016. While in Vietnam, one of them plucked a raw cashew off a tree barehanded and the oil got onto his face and in his eyes. It was terribly painful and caused them to have to skip their planned trip to Sumatra. The day they would have arrived, the Aceh earthquake hit and turned the island into a disaster zone. I don't think he has any ill will toward cashews now.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:41 AM on January 8 [10 favorites]


On a tourist trip to a rum distillery on Dominica, my wife and I were treated to a few stops along the way. During that stop, we were shown the branch of a cinnamon tree, a fresh coconut pod (not on this particular list, but interesting nonetheless), fresh bananas and a cacao pod, which was very bitter. This article is fascinating, for the bits I've never seen before. Cashews and sesame seeds jumped out at me, I've never actually considered the origins of either. I live in California, so quite a few of the others aren't so foreign to me.
posted by Chuffy at 11:18 AM on January 8


Those cashew apples are usually thrown away, except in Brazil where they make a singularly refreshing juice out of them. Jerusalem artichokes also have a pretty unexpected plant form.
posted by progosk at 11:41 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Apparently you dont see fresh/unshelled cashews bc they contain high levels of the same chemical found in poison ivy

Urushiol! Apparently you have to roast cashews at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit to get it out, and you really don't want to be near the fumes during the process. Worth it, though. Best nut (technically a seed, but eh) ever, followed closely by macadamias and pecans.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:42 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I am pleased that I knew (and/or had seen) most of these! I'm kind of a bio nut, though.

I hadn't known what sesame plants looked like, or even what family they're in. (I guess the closest thing I'm familiar with is the mint and sage family.) Similarly, I knew what capers were, but didn't know what the plant looked like. The pistachio fruits look really cute! And I'm not surprised to learn that they're in the Anacardiaceae, along with cashews, poison ivy... and yes, mango. They have that *look*.

Exceptional_Hubris , I have seen whole, frozen cashew fruits for sale at a South American grocery store in the US. The fruit is pleasant, although kind of floral and bland. I carefully disposed of the "nut" part that was hanging off of it. :-)
posted by Belostomatidae at 11:43 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Brazil nut fruit are completely.
(well, except for the bits that are fruit, if something rock-hard and wooden could ever be considered a fruit.)
posted by scruss at 11:46 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


So a fun thing about peanuts is that, despite being underground, those are the fruits/seeds that we're harvesting, not the roots.

So how do we get from aboveground flowers to belowground fruit, when flowers are what produce the fruit? This is a phenomenon called geocarpy - reproduction under the soil.

After the flower is pollinated and the petals fall off, the stalk bearing the remaining ovary (full of developing seeds) elongates and bends to the ground, ultimately pushing the ovary underground where it will mature into a peanut.
posted by pemberkins at 11:50 AM on January 8 [33 favorites]


The first time our grocery store got brussel sprout stalks I walked by, did a double take, and turned back to stop and stare. You can roast the whole stalk in the oven and pick the sprouts off! The "uncanny valley" "ho ho ho, Green Giant" joke is left as an exercise for the reader.

So who decided we would eat just the seeds of a sesame pod but the whole thing with okra?
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:24 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


So jackfruit is the subject of one my favourite pieces of useless information; apparently there is a common phrase in Bangladesh that translates as:

"Oiling your mustache in anticipation of the Jackfruit tree bearing fruit"

It has the same connotations as counting your chickens before they hatch. I find it lovely and evocative, and having eaten jackfruit with a good few days of stubble going I totally get it.
posted by fido~depravo at 12:46 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


pemberkins, that is the coolest thing I've learned in at least two weeks!
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 12:46 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


The first time our grocery store got brussel sprout stalks I walked by, did a double take, and turned back to stop and stare. You can roast the whole stalk in the oven and pick the sprouts off! The "uncanny valley" "ho ho ho, Green Giant" joke is left as an exercise for the reader.

I have occasionally done a double take when in grocery stores around town, but that's because I have seen the actual Green Giant.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:29 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Cashew fruit is edible, but you do have to be careful about the skin. Like a mango its skin contains urushiol, but apparently quite a bit more. I guess I'm not particularly sensitive to it since I've never had a poison oak rash and have had no bad experiences scraping mango off its skin with my teeth.

When travelling in India, I picked up a cashew fruit that had fallen on the road to inspect it closely. It was fragrant and looked tasty but I decided not to take a bite (though very sorely tempted). Later in the day I felt a strange, but not particularly unpleasant, tingling on my hand that lasted for hours. I'm assuming it was from handling the cashew. As I understand it, this can be an issue with people who harvest cashews as well. You have to be very careful with it, particularly the drupe that contains the nut.

The "cashew apple" itself does not all go to waste. It can be fermented and distilled into cashew feni which makes a fine rickey, substituting the feni for gin.

The cashew is native to Brazil and it was the Portuguese who spread it through the half of the world allotted to them by Pope Julius II.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:29 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Why is there a monogram on each vanilla bean?
posted by soelo at 2:43 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


We're re-naming Brussels sprouts “cabbage on the cob.”
Who's with me?
posted by D.Billy at 2:55 PM on January 8 [26 favorites]


Brazil nut fruit are completely.
(well, except for the bits that are fruit, if something rock-hard and wooden could ever be considered a fruit.)
\

Whoa. As an enjoyer of Brazil nuts, from now on I'm calling them Cronenberg pods.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:02 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Obligatory New Zealander checking in to correct the article and point out the three terms:

Kiwi is the person, kiwi is the bird, kiwifruit is the fruit (AKA Chinese Gooseberry).
posted by McNulty at 5:09 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I try not to buy anything with cashews. The urushiol lends itself to terrible working conditions. They can be produced ethically (there are some companies listed at the end of the article) but the vast majority are not. I find it easier just to cut them out of my life.
posted by darksasami at 5:20 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


“cabbage on the cob.”

marry me
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:30 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Ugh, about cashews, that was what I was afraid of but couldn't find any references not behind paywalls, so thanks for finding that. Adding insult to injury, cashews are used to create vegan "cheese." And it is actually pretty good. So, yeah, cashews: problematic.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:34 PM on January 8


I knew about cashews from Nalo Hopkinson's book The New Moon's Arms.

Trader Joe's sometimes sells Brussels sprouts on a branch. My husband works at TJ's, so I told him to tell folks it's "Cabbage on the cob" in the future.
posted by Archer25 at 6:15 PM on January 8


I'm down to buy cashews that were picked and then locally processed in Benin. I think even if fair trade programs have their limits, it is worth it to support those efforts: Beyond the Nut.
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:26 PM on January 8


OK I just watched the animated promo video for Beyond and it is WEIRD. The narration explains how "average cashews" get shipped to be fumigated and then shipped to be processed (cue unhappy cartoon cashew). "Nobody cares where they are from" and describes them as "old and traumatized."
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:31 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I unfortunately did know that cashew and pistachios look like mangoes because our son is allergic to them. He had a reaction to a delicious curry with cashew butter in it and since those three trees are related they don’t even bother testing the other two because they all produce the same protein. Interestingly, mango fruit is fine: it’s only in the seed (and not the surface) so the main thing to beware of there are the far less common users of ground mango seed.
posted by adamsc at 6:37 PM on January 8


Kiwi is the person, kiwi is the bird, kiwifruit is the fruit (AKA Chinese Gooseberry).

alas, the rest of the world knows that kiwi is the fruit. Except for Iran, where (I'm told) their name means "eggs with carpet".
posted by scruss at 8:26 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I guess I've gotten lucky the couple of times I handled cashew apples - I've pulled them apart and suffered no irritation. I think they sell the flesh in stores in Thailand.

Re: artichokes, they don't really come from purple flowers - they bloom into purple flowers. But by the time they do, they're not much good for eating.

Re: brussels sprouts -
  1. buying them on the cob is a fun novelty, but compare prices because they can be more expensive that way, and then you have to do the extra work of getting them off the stalk.
  2. I've had people tell me they don't like them because they taste bitter. I've never had a bitter brussels sprout. I thought maybe they weren't being prepared properly, but thanks to xkcd I learned that "Deep Sprout" developed a non-bitter cultivar years ago (that's the link from the xkcd strip), so brussels sprouts actually do taste better now than they did when a lot of current grown-ups were kids and developed a distaste for them.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:07 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


I used to find those peanut plants as a child and wonder why the heck people were putting peanuts in the shell underground so often. At the time, it never occurred to me that peanuts grew underground. 🥜
posted by saucysault at 4:08 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


These are all cool, and I love learning about this kind of thing. Most of them only grow in tropical climates, but let me put in a plug for growing your own brussels sprouts even if you're in a much colder environment. They don't do well growing in pots, as we discovered last year, but if you plant them in deeper soil and then mostly ignore them, those suckers will take off in no time. The plants sprout leaves along with sprouts, and you're supposed to trim them back now and then, but the leaves are also edible-they remind me of a sweeter kale, or a less chewy collard green. So you get periodic brussels sprouts leaves over the course of the summer, and then you have mature plants just in time for Thanksgiving (in New England, anyway). Then you get to do what I did, which was uproot the entire plant from the front garden and march triumphantly into the kitchen with it in its full five feet of glorious, bizarre-looking leafy stalk.
posted by Mayor West at 6:00 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


I once planted Brussels sprouts and went to harvest them for (Canadian) Thanksgiving after what had been a crazy-busy end of summer and fall. I was like "where are the sprouts??" and my husband helpfully pointed out the huge, large leaves tangled with wild grape in the back of the garden. I was like, oh right...sprouts...

Anyways I'd seen almost all of these these but it was still fun, thank you. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:12 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


On of my favorite thing to do in the Caribbean and Yucatan is try to spot things like vanilla flowers and cacao and almond trees. Neat!
posted by aspersioncast at 7:10 AM on January 9


Normal brussel sprouts that will grow in most gardens are the size of grapes or blueberries. It's one of those that you have to really work to produce what you can buy in the grocery store for $1.50
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:21 AM on January 9


posted by The_Vegetables

Hmm.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:43 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


The artichoke one makes me doubt the veracity of the rest. How much of this info was made up by looking at the pictures and guessing?

Also, I once had the chance to taste the fruit that cacoa seeds grow in and it was delicious.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:28 PM on January 9


The artichoke one was phrased badly (artichokes don't "come from" the flowers; the flowers are what happen if the artichoke buds are allowed to mature on the plant), but it's not completely wrong. Given what I know about the other foods, they're at least as accurate.

Growing artichokes is fun because after you harvest the main one, the plant often sprouts an additional crop of mini artichokes off the side of the stalk. (Excellent for slicing in half then dredging in seasoned flour and frying.) Plus artichoke leaves can be used to make bitters.
posted by Lexica at 3:49 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Well, I have a degree in botany, plus I once visited the Field Museum in Chicago and entered a hall devoted to plant families and the products made from those plants. I remember being utterly enthralled and yet suspecting most people might not be as enthralled at glass case after glass case filled with dusty reproductions of fruits and nuts. Is it still like that, I wonder? If it isn't, but you want to reproduce the experience in book form, try to find a used copy of Flowering Plants of the World Hardcover by V. H. Heywood.
posted by acrasis at 6:11 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Normal brussel sprouts that will grow in most gardens are the size of grapes or blueberries. It's one of those that you have to really work to produce what you can buy in the grocery store for $1.50

Not in the PNW. Brussels, kale and other cold weather loving brassicas explode around here. I've seen abandoned, poorly kept Brussel sprouts the size of golf balls or tennis balls on 3 foot high stalks, and multi-year kale or chard plants the size of rather large shrubs.

I know a bunch of people who have what is effectively year round and nearly effortless brassica segments of their garden. Tomatoes? Pain in the ass around here. Brassicas? They'll overgrow your garden beds if you give them half a chance and if you can keep the giant slugs at bay.

And some of the best kale I've ever had has come from those multi-year winter-surviving plants. Kale is best when it's wintered a few times. It gets really, really sweet and flavorful and isn't the bitter astringent mess that is most single-season store bought kale.
posted by loquacious at 8:19 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


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