This morning on the news I heard that many children (and some of their parents) are unsure of how the fruit and vegetables we eat actually grow. It’s not all that surprising, since most of us only see fruit and vegetables in beautiful and colourful displays at the supermarket. Unless you have a garden or an allotment and grow your own, you won’t get a chance to see anything as it grows. Until now!
There are three main ways a vegetable can grow. Some are roots that grow underground. These include parsnips (shown above), carrots and radishes. When you plant the seeds you have to be very patient and wait for the green shoots to grow big and leafy above the ground. It’s important to wait – NO PEEKING – because if you pull them up too soon you will break their little root tendrils and they will stop growing.
Other vegetables that grow underground are onions (shown above) and potatoes. These are not quite the same as root vegetables. The part of the onion that we eat is a bulb that grows below ground, with small roots extending into the soil and green leaves sprouting above ground. A potato is what’s called a tuber, which forms part of the potato plant’s root system.
The illustration above, taken from an excellent website HERE that shows you how to grow your own potatoes, explains the stages of growth and shows you how the potatoes develop under the ground.
The second way vegetables can grow is on a vine. This includes the big, heavy ones like pumpkins, squash, courgette (or zucchini) and cucumbers which lie on the ground, and also smaller, lighter ones like peas, beans and tomatoes (technically a fruit) which can be supported with poles or nets to help the vine grow upward. Each of these vegetables is actually a seed pod, and you can easily see that when you open them up. Think of how many little seeds are inside a tomato, or how much slimy goop full of seeds you have to dig out of your Hallowe’en pumpkin!
The third way vegetables grow is sprouting up above ground with strong roots holding them up. This is true of asparagus, shown above (something I didn’t know!), leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. I found another fun website called Secret Seed Society that shows how Brussels sprouts grow on big stalks. I think they are the weirdest vegetables I’ve seen yet!
Another vegetable I can think of that grows on a big tall stalk is sweet corn. When I was young I used to love eating corn-on-the-cob smothered in butter and salt! We would buy them fresh from the market, and I always liked to help peel back the green leaves and the stringy hair at the top. Like vegetables that grow on vines, corn cobs are made up of lots of seeds (the little yellow kernels that we eat). These are the same kernels we use to make popcorn.
Most of the vegetable photographs I’ve used above come from Chanel 4’s website, Grow Your Own Food. Take a look at all the amazing things you can grow, even without a garden!
Now, “What about fruit?” I hear you say. Most of the fruit we eat is grown on trees. It is also full of seeds and is designed to fall from the tree and decay, allowing the seeds to take root in the ground to make a new plant. Before that can happen, we gather up all the fruit and eat it ourselves, throwing the seeds away! Perhaps next time you eat some fruit you should save the seeds and try and plant them.
Above you can see some yummy looking Gala apples from Aston Fruit Farm in Herefordshire. Most fruit trees are fairly small (which makes picking the fruit much easier!) There are hundreds of varieties of apples alone. Other fruits that grow this way include oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, pears, plums, pomegranates, dates, figs, apricots, cherries, peaches, and many more!
Other fruit you might enjoy grows on a vine. I was quite aware that both green and red grapes grow this way, but I was very surprised when researching this topic to find that kiwi fruit does too! The picture above came from Wisegeek.com, so if you want to know more about kiwi fruit just click HERE. There are other vine fruits that can get quite big. These include all sorts of different melons, including gallia, canteloupe, honeydew and of course the biggest of all, watermelon!
Another type of fruit you might wonder about is the berry. These usually grow on bushes, so they make picking easy! The strawberry photo above comes from Bullscroft Farm, where you can pick your own if you like. I remember picking strawberries when I was a child, and it’s quite hard work bending down for hours. Back then I didn’t like strawberries, so I wasn’t even tempted to nibble on them as I picked! You can also pick raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, boysenberries and logan berries, which grow on taller bushes, but watch out as some of them are prickly!
Blueberries also grow on low bushes, and they are very delicate so it’s especially hard to pick them. Often you find blueberries baked in muffins, but they are even better when you put fresh ones on cereal or ice cream.
The last fruit I want to show you is one that grows on a small bush but is very different from any berry. I saw this in the Amazon and had to take a picture because it was so surprising! It’s one of my favourite fruits, and it grows on a very spiky bush. The pineapple!