The everyday fruits and vegetables consumed today look almost nothing like they did before humans domesticated them. Throughout history, farmers have practiced selective breeding to grow crops with desired traits for consumption. Today, the produce we find at the grocery market look strikingly different from the ones our ancestors encountered.
Bananas are believed to have been cultivated nearly 7,000 years ago in Papua, New Guinea and were also found in Southeast Asia. Wild bananas come in two varieties, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana, that contained large, hard seeds. Today our iconic yellow banana has a peelable exterior and soft interior.
A 17th-century painting by artist Giovanni Stanchi reveals that watermelons in the old days looked quite different from the melons of today. The cross-section of the watermelons that were produced between 1645 and 1672 show swirly patterns with six triangular pockets. Our modern-day watermelons have a red, meaty interior called the placenta.
Wild peaches that were first domesticated in 4,000 B.C. by the ancient Chinese resembled small cherries. They were not as big or juicy and tasted earthy and slightly salty. Thousands of years later, peaches are now 64 times larger. They are also approximately 27% juicier and 4% sweeter.
Carrots in the old days are believed to have been purple or white with a forked root. The earliest carrots were thought to have grown in Persia and Asia Minor in the 10th century. Throughout time they have lost their purple hues and turned a yellowish color. The carrots today have been domesticated to have large orange roots that are harvested every winter.
North American sweet corn was selectively bred from a mostly inedible teosinte plant. Natural corn was domesticated in 7,000 BC and resembled that of a dry, raw potato. Modern corn is 1,000 times bigger than it was back in the day and more convenient to peel and grow.
The earliest eggplants were cultivated in China and come in a variety of colors and shapes including white, purple and yellow. In addition, they had spines where the plant’s stems connects to the flowers. The modern eggplant lacks a spine and come in larger shapes and a common purple color.