You might know your onions and where they came from, but what about your capers, peppercorns and cashew nuts? Prepare to have your mind blown

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Image: Bet you didn't know your food grew like this

John hansen / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: mildewrabbit

Any idea what this is? Find out below!

Pineapples

Hang on a minute ... don't pineapples grow on trees? Don't people lie under them and drink cocktails? Why are they all sprawled out on the floor like that?

 

Well ladies and gents, here's the thing, pineapples grow in fields. With loads of other pineapples. They take about three years to mature and if left to their own devices will reach a weight of 9 kilos on their dinky little leaves. Indeed.

Our dear fruity friends get along very well with vanilla but are not to be underestimated as a savoury friend for a juicy turkey steak. Yum.

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Pineapples

Saffron

See that little red string in the middle of this flower? That's saffron. Yes, the one you put in your paella (mmm, paella).

 

It takes 80,000 of these stigmas to produce 500g of saffron at a cost of between £400 and £1,200, making saffron the most expensive spice in the world. Each of these pretty blue flowers is packing just three tiny strands of the precious stuff, so you can only imagine what a riot it is to harvest. A whopping 90% of all saffron is produced in Iran. Still thinking about that paella? Get along and cook your own.

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saffron

Glen / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: graibeard

Saffron

Capers

Capers, those vinegary little buds we buy in jars started out on stalks that look like THIS. 

 

There are actually two types of caper that grow on this plant but you may not know the difference. The caper berry is the fruit of the plant and often served as an antipasti in posh Italian restaurants. The caper bud is smaller, often pickled and chucked in salads, pizzas and pasta in the Med, like this fine Italian scallop pasta dish.

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capers

Roberto Zingales / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: filicudi

A caper bush in flower

Pepper

Anyone else know black pepper started out in life like this? This is the pepper fruit before it is picked, dried and cooked. 

 

So peppercorns are actually a fruit? Yup. Plucked from the branch before it's ripened this south Indian plant has been used in times gone by as a cure for all manner of diseases, including toothache, insomnia, gangrene and even eye infections. Ouch! But if you don't fancy rubbing it onto your eyeballs, you could make the most of it with this tasty battered prawn recipe.

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Peppercorns

Artichokes

Choose artichokes for your bridal bouquet.

 

The artichoke is technically a flower bud that has not grown to its full glory. The ancient Greeks considered these beauties to be an aphrodisiac, which isn't such a surprise when they look this damn pretty. 

Treat your veggie friends by scattering a few artichoke hearts on this easy vegtastic pizza.

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artichoke

Manuel Noah Angeja / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: visualarts

An artichoke flower

Vanilla

You think you're ahead of the groove but bet you didn't know that vanilla comes with this lovely white flower. Oh, and it's technically an orchid with the only edible fruit in the orchid family. 

 

Growing vanilla is actually a bit of a slog. The vines take years to grow and the fruits, which look like massive green beans, must remain on the vine for nine months. But, when the beans are harvested, they are still have no flavour or fragrance. All this fandango makes vanilla pretty pricey to manufacture (second only to saffron) which is why most of the world's vanilla flavoured products are made using flavourings. Use the proper pod stuff for a dreamy vanilla cheesecake or a (slightly healthier) ice cream and pineapple dessert.

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vanilla

Malcolm Manners / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: mmmavocado

A vanilla orchid

Cashews

Crikey, that's a weird looking pepper. What's that little nodule on the ... a CASHEW NUT you say? Oh yes, of course we totally knew that.

 

Each cashew nut is individually plucked from its fruit and the peppery looking flesh is often discarded. The cashew apple is sugary to taste and can be cooked in curries like this delicious Lamb Pilaf or, used as the Goans do and made into booze. Sweet as a nut.

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cashew

John hansen / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: mildewrabbit

A cashew apple

 

Don't worry, we can all feel like plonkers together.